19-year-old Belgian U23 cyclocross racer Justin Laevens has come out as gay during an interview with SportsNU.be, making him one of a just a small number professional cyclists to openly disclose their sexuality.

“Being out in the sports world is difficult, I hope I can set an example for other athletes, for riders or for cyclocrossers who may still be hidden in their shell,” Laevens said of his hopes to lead the way in changing people’s perceptions.

My parents were very positive about it. I was especially afraid of the reactions of bigger riders or teams, that they would look at me differently, but I don’t think that’s the case.”

As in many professional sporting codes, fear of the stigma associated with sexuality and of coming out, has long been a barrier for many professional cyclists, be it from managers to fans and fellow teammates, others fear that coming out, could negatively impact their careers in other ways, such as sponsorship deals.

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 These sentiments were expressed by American elite road racer, 21-year-old Paul Hartner when last April they came out as queer, saying “I think it’s fear of the unknown. There’s not really anyone leading the peloton as an out queer. You look at that and you’re like, well, there’s probably a reason nobody’s done it, right?”

Laevens, taking to Instagram after his interview with SportsNU.be, thanked his followers saying, “Thank you for all your beautiful and positive messages. I hope to be an example to others. Stay yourself, enjoy your life & be happy yourself!

This coming weekend Laevens will take part in a championship race in the elite field, though would normally compete in the U23 race for younger cyclists. However, due to the ongoing pandemic, these races have been cancelled. Laevens this season has competed in 13 races, with his best finish coming in at 21st place at BryksyCross Gościęcin in Poland.

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