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The suspension will begin April 13, 2024 and conclude June 13, 2024.
Additionally, Williams and Gibbons have been fined $250 each for unsportsmanlike conduct for using foul language and taunting one another immediately following the crash.
The investigation found no evidence of improper racing by Gibbons, and he has received no penalty beyond the fine for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“USA Cycling maintains a zero-tolerance stance toward dangerous racing and unsportsmanlike behavior, and is committed to ensuring the safety and integrity of cycling events in the U.S.,” the governing body’s statement on the decision says.
It is the second suspension Williams has received in as many seasons. The first resulted from a fight at the Salt Lake Criterium last July with Michael Hernandez that resulted in a five-month ban and a $500 fine.
USA Cycling says it has timed the latest ban to coincide with the provisional start date of the 2024 American Criterium Cup Series.
Williams and his L39ION of Los Angeles team participate in a number of the races in the 10-race series. The new ban likely excludes the team co-founder from a number of marquee events including the Athens Twilight Criterium, Sunny King Criterium, and Tulsa Tough.
The riders respond: “I believe Justin intended to harm me”
On Instagram, Williams posted this statement last night:
Last month in the heat of Littleton Twilight Crit I was involved in an accident with a fellow rider. Never in my life have I ridden with the intent to cause harm. This is high speed crit racing. Real time judgments are made in fractions of a second and unfortunately sometimes accidents happen. I keep my head high and will continue my mission to promote safe environments, educate riders of all ages, and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within this sport.
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Gibbons believes that the crash was more than an accident, and that Williams acted to intentionally harm him.
“To be honest, I was quite upset in the aftermath of the crash,” Gibbons told Velo in a written statement. “I believe Justin intended to injure me, but that’s my opinion. There’s clear video from a few different angles out there, so I think it’s best if people watch it and form their own opinions.
“At 33, my primary goal is to help develop the young riders who still have ambition to graduate from these amateur races and become professional in Europe. It is what our team, Automatic, is built around. If Justin and his team want to continue assaulting other racers as they did at Salt Lake, then Tulsa, and now Littleton, then there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s just another clipping for the file. It’s up to USA Cycling to ensure proper enforcement of the rules in order to create a safe racing environment for everyone.
“At the end of the day, I’m confident and happy in the work that I do for my team and my athletes. That’s where my focus is and will remain.”
When told Gibbons’ remarks, Williams told Velo, “I’m not here to hurt anybody. Being accused of malicious intent is pretty hard. I truly do apologize for the crash — I am not trying to hurt anybody.
“I’m trying to win the race and protect my teammates and my brother. We’ve had incidents in the past. We’re all racing hard, we’re all trying to win. Crashes are a reaction to the racing in the environment that we’ve been dealing with. It’s not easy being in the spotlight and having to do everything right and still win the races.”
Williams then went on to re-emphasize his mission to grow cycling in America.
“I understand that not everybody appreciates criterium racing and American racing the way we appreciate it. I think a lot of people try to discredit it every chance they get, but it’s essential to recognize how important crits are in growing the cycling community in America, and especially in the inner cities. That’s really why I got the opportunity to ride bikes and have my perspective opened up as a young kid coming from L.A., and we just want to do that for others.”
What we know about the crash
The crash occurred in corner three of the Littleton Twilight Criterium, which took place August 5, with six laps remaining.
Leading up to the crash, Williams and his L39ION of Los Angeles team had taken to the front to form a leadout train in anticipation of the final sprint, and Gibbons had been riding towards the front of the race intermixing with this train.
In-race helmet camera footage of the incident circulating recently on social media that Velo has independently obtained and confirmed was reviewed in the USA Cycling investigation shows Justin Williams taking a wide line through the corner, veering far from the pack, with Gibbons to his outside, leading both riders to crash.
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Velo obtained a copy of USA Cycling elite national commissaire James Abbott’s investigation into Tom Gibbons’ role in the incident, a document that also includes much of the governing body’s evidence regarding Williams’ role in the incident. It states this:
Gibbons was accused with physically interfering with the “train” by pushing through from one side to the other. The videos do not support this claim; when Gibbons is squeezed by other riders, he backs out and while he is near the front of the field, he does not force his way into the line.
The report then details the movements of L39ION riders and Gibbons in the race and in relation to one another leading up to the crash.
It then states this about the crash:
Justin Williams does not take the racing line. He slows and moves to the right into Gibbons. This causes Gibbons to crash which also brings down Justin. No other riders crash.
The report next states what happens post crash:
Both riders are able to get up and have some road rash. Thomas Gibbons has a deeper cut which will require stitches at the ER that night. Both riders engage in a loud argument taunting each other about their professionalism.
Some of the bystanders at the corner also taunt Justin about being a professional including the race marshal working the corner. Justin repeatedly shouts he is a professional and “what are you doing” to Gibbons. He also suggests Thomas should retire and should know that he should not interfere with a lead-out train. There was also reportedly some foul language exchanged.
Inside the USA Cycling investigation
USA Cycling says its decision comes after a thorough investigation of available evidence, including rider and bystander interviews as well as in-race footage and videos shot by bystanders.
The USA Cycling investigation also notes that “Cory Williams is also wearing a helmet camera during the race, but his footage was not provided (it would have captured the crash.) Cory drops out of the race immediately after the crash.”
According to Abbott’s report, Gibbons was investigated for potentially violating the following USA Cycling regulations:
- 8A4(d) Dangerous Riding; or conduct posing a threat to any person(s) other than the perpetrator.
- 8A5(b) Unsportsmanlike conduct, including but not limited to, Foul or abusive language; insults and rude behavior
- 8A5(i) Other activity or actions not specifically covered by the rules but bringing discredit upon the sport
The investigation comes to this conclusion:
Based on video footage:
Mr. Gibbons does not ride dangerously. He does ride in amongst the L39ion lead-out train and in very close proximity to Cory Williams and other riders.
Some riders described Mr. Gibbons forcing his way through the L39ion train. I found no evidence of anything beyond normal criterium racing by Mr. Gibbons.
After the crash, both Mr. Williams and Mr. Gibbons were unsportsmanlike (mitigated by the fact that they were angry due to crashing.) None of the witnesses I spoke with provided any extreme examples of foul language, but they described a heated exchange of insults in response to taunts. Bystanders apparently encouraged this with their own taunting.
The riders restrained themselves and no fighting took place.
Mr. Gibbons is accused of following Justin Williams and Dante Young and continuing to taunt Justin after they walked away. I have no evidence to support this other than hearsay.
Gibbons and Williams have both received a $250 fine for using foul language and taunting each other after the crash.
How does this race ban compare to Williams’ previous ban?
At two months long, the latest race ban for Justin Williams is much shorter than his previous five-month-long ban.
The previous ban stemmed from a fight following the Salt Lake Criterium in July 2022, where Michael Hernandez of the now defunct Best Buddies Racing team and Cory Williams, brother and teammate of Justin, got into an argument over an incident in the race, prompting Justin to come in to defend Cory. The spat evolved into punches being thrown.
For his role in the incident, Hernandez received a reduced three-month suspension and $500 fine after accepting the ban and agreeing to perform community service. Hernandez’s teammate Robert Sierra was also suspended for one month for his involvement in the altercation. Williams had the option for the same deal as Hernandez but appealed the ruling; his five-month ban was later upheld.
In the more recent Littleton Criterium incident, USA Cycling’s investigation concludes that Williams rode dangerously and took a non-race line that crashed out another rider. The crash sent Gibbons to the hospital for stitches to a deep cut.
Automatic-ABUS Racing manager Lauren Dodge doesn’t believe two months is a long enough ban.
“When the investigation ruling can’t even follow USAC policy, I have little faith in his commitment to make our sport safer,” she told Cyclingnews. “The suggested minimum suspension of a person found to have committed ‘Violence or intentional injury of any person’ is six months (8J in the USAC rule book). This is the second consecutive year Justin has been suspended for violent behavior, and the suspension period is getting shorter. This isn’t preventing dangerous behavior; it shows that it’s becoming more tolerated by USAC.”
The American Criterium Cup is now over, but Williams will race again before this ban starts at the first ever race of his new CRIT Championship Tour, set for October 21 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The race and series is operating independently of USA Cycling.