Cory Williams has the distinct privilege of being one of the world’s influential Black bike racers, and while representation and diversity seems to be an uphill battle in pro cycling, he is one of the few that has taken the sport by storm.

The 30-year-old seemed destined for success in cycling at a young age. His brothers and father were heavily involved in the sport, so it was deeply ingrained in the family’s values.

Williams, a Los Angeles native, competes professionally for L39ION of Los Angeles and will be a repeat participant in the 124-mile race this year. He recalls the inaugural Maryland Cycling Classic being an indelible experience. Williams embraced the alluring scenery, challenging route and competing alongside the best bike racers in the world.

Typically, Williams doesn’t ride in long road races like the Cycling Classic. He usually races in biking events called criteriums – generally shorter races consisting of several laps around a closed circuit – which is a far cry from something like the Tour De France, for instance. 

Nonetheless, Williams enjoyed himself and anticipates returning for the second annual event in Baltimore.

“It was really cool and it gave me some perspective on doing these big races, and getting that experience, and enjoying something I wanted to compete in since I was a little kid,” Williams said.

“The scenery was really nice. Going out of the city to where there’s basically nothing – beautiful, quiet roads – it was something that was really cool to see. Sometimes when you’re riding so hard you can’t really see the scenery, but there were just a couple of things that I noticed on the training ride that were just beautiful.”

While there are numerous Black-run biking clubs and organizations across the country, there is only one known professional cycling team that is Black-owned: L39ION of Los Angeles, founded in 2019 by Williams and his brother, Justin.

Since its inception, L39ION of Los Angeles set the biking sphere ablaze and has essentially been the face of diversity and inclusion in professional cycling. The club is a UCI Continental team. 

Though he was surrounded by influential figures like his father and brothers, Williams didn’t see many Black cyclists growing up. However, he said he’s noticed the trend shift in an upward direction, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Growing up, there were a lot less Black people on bikes. As I got older and as COVID hit, we saw a big rise in the population of Black cyclists,” Williams said.

“We are super proud of seeing the demographic change when we show up to these races. We speak to them and they see us out here racing and winning, and I think that motivates them to get on the bike. So we’ve been super happy to see the population of Black cyclists grow.” 

As a Black co-owner of a cycling team, Williams is uniquely positioned to influence certain demographics that many other entrepreneurs in the sports world cannot.

“It’s pretty unique to be the owner and a bike racer on a team,” he said.

“I feel like a lot of times you’re kind of pushed out of being yourself, and they try and put you into this robotic role that everyone is the same and everybody acts the same, looks the same, and I don’t think that fits our culture as Black people. So, it’s been nice to express ourselves. I guess that would be the word I would use to say how it is owning a team.”

In preparation for the Cycling Classic, Williams’ training regimen has changed drastically. As opposed to the typical routine used to prepare for an hour-and-a-half race, he’s found himself putting in much longer hours to build the endurance needed to sustain for 120-plus miles.

“Having the experience of doing the race, I know what to prepare myself for this year,” he concluded.

Demetrius Dillard
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