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After a post-race fight between L39ION of Los Angeles and Best Buddies at the Salt Lake Criterium led to fines, disqualification, and possible suspension for Justin Williams and Michael Hernandez last Saturday, L39ION pulled its men’s and women’s teams out of Sunday’s race, stating that its riders’ safety comes first.
Videos of the final lap incident quickly circulated the internet. They showed Hernandez attempting to move up into the L39ION train around the first inside corner on the final lap, causing Cory Williams to clip a pedal and veer the US crit champion towards the curb.
Was it intentional? Who was in the wrong? Hashtag crit beef is back. Alert the meme accounts.
L39ION opted to pull out of Sunday’s race because it’s not just the men who’ve swapped heated moments with their competitors. The women’s team feels a wave of incivility has been targeted at its riders, causing US pro criterium champion Kendall Ryan to take to Instagram with her frustrations.
“The amount of disrespect I’ve received while wearing this jersey in the US racing scene is astonishing,” she captioned under an image of her winning the Salt Lake race the night before.
“Since I started racing at the pro level at 18, there was something called respect in bike racing. Respect the jersey and the people better than you … I get verbally abused in every race, and riders intentionally riding aggressive towards me and my teammates, which has caused us to over ride and be defensive so we don’t crash. Followed by an insurmountable amount of hate online. Take a look at yourselves and figure out what you’re actually mad at.”
At Boise Twilight Criterium the weekend prior, the L39ION train took to the front on the last lap when American Criterium Cup leader and Canadian criterium champion Maggie Coles-Lyster moved into their train around a corner — similar to the attempt made by Hernandez. Ryan almost lost control and crossed the line in ninth place, visibly upset. Her teammate, Skyler Schneider, took the win ahead of Coles-Lyster.
After coming back to win at Salt Lake the next weekend, she used a post-race interview to address what she deemed as dangerous riding, as well as increasing animosity from her competitors.
“There were little heated conversations and words said during the race that were not very nice from other riders,” Ryan said. “So I just wanted to give them a shout-out. This win’s for you. Other than that? My team is awesome.”
The circumstances had reached a tipping point by Saturday. After the proverbial benches cleared between Best Buddies and L39ION most were left wondering how we got here.
L39ION say they’re under fire because of “unconscious bias in the peloton.” However, others claim it’s the Los Angeles-based team that rides dangerously.
“You can go on to Cory’s and Justin’s Instagram profiles, and they actually have videos where they are celebrating knocking guys off the ground set to music,” Best Buddies director Thomas Craven said.
“These races are literally live streamed and everybody has a camera. So you can’t hide. You can’t say ‘no, that didn’t happen.’ Yes, it does. And that happened. That’s the problem, you can make up a new story, and you can interpret it the way you want to.”
Both sides can agree on one thing, however, that the race officials should hold dangerous riders more accountable.
“It comes down to whether or not the race officials are interested in doing the paperwork or not,” a representative from L39ION told VeloNews.
“And now we’re in an environment where that has cultivated a wild west approach to racing and is inherently dangerous. If someone were to think that any rider would have gotten away with that level of disrespect and danger towards UnitedHealthcare’s blue train or the Fly Virgin Australia squad, it would never happen. And yet we’re now the team that has to take it on the chin.”
Despite pulling its teams out of Sunday’s Salt Lake race, L39ION plans to stay on track with its race schedule. The team is registered for the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, which acts as the California State Championship, this coming weekend and the Intelligentsia Cup in Chicago at the end of the month.