By Alyssa Plant


A young athlete retires mysteriously at the peak of her career. Her reasons why are a private pain.

Bikepark Leogang, Austria
Thumping music and a cheering crowd echoed around the forest canopy. There’s rarely a more wild and happy atmosphere in the world than a Downhill Mountain Bike race in full swing. There’s music, fast riders, crashes, alcohol and food. You could say that it’s a party where a race breaks out.

No amount of music could lift Alex Carter’s spirits. The chime of bells or the revving of chainsaw engines used to fill her with such joy and vitality. They were the sounds of her passion; her world cheering her on as she gave her everything to that one run down the hill. One single terrifying run that counted for everything. From the top to the finish line at the bottom, through an evolving course that seemed to shift with each rider down, it was exhilarating. The cameras, the crowds and the exotic locations truly made it an amazing world to be a part of.

It felt so very different to be sitting trackside watching the race rather than blasting past inside the tape. She’d been to races before as a spectator of course. She had partied with friends at local events and regionals, even the pro races before she had gotten her own shot. The party atmosphere seemed to flow around her like she was a rock in a stream, her own little spot of dirt was an island free of joy, just regret. Leaning against a tree, hanging back from the crowd while they clamored to cheer on the next rider down felt so very isolated.

Why had she fallen in love with this sport? She could have been happy just riding her bike, enjoying the trails, and being perfectly content. She would have been untouched, unmolested by hate and misunderstanding. It was a strange beast, a sport that people competed in for different reasons. For many, it was the joy of competition that empowered them to be their best selves. The companionship and camaraderie of the event gave them joy to find something in themselves and others that they had only dreamed existed. For others, it was to challenge themselves and prove their mettle. To take on the greatest and prove that they deserved to be called the very best.

For Alex, it had given her a sense of belonging. She had worked with the other girls, trained with them and they had enjoyed challenging each other. They battled one another to set faster and faster times, finding new lines, and shaving off tenths of seconds. It was a different atmosphere to the men's field. Amongst the women, they were competitive sure, all of them wanted to win. To be a winner, to be the champion was everything, but it was different. First and foremost, they were in this together. They were riding for their passion of all things two-wheeled. They were pushing each other onward and no matter who finished where, they were friends.

“You look miserable.”

Alex glanced up to see a young blonde woman in sponsored race gear grinning at her. “You miss it don’t you?” she asked, her French accent strong.

Alex nodded wordlessly, a sad quirk of her lip conveying her feelings.

The woman slipped down to sit beside her and shoulder-bumped her as she stared out into the back of the oblivious crowd. “When you announced you were retiring, the girls were a bit surprised to be honest. We’ve all come back from worse injuries and continued. Was it really that bad that you couldn’t race?”

Alex rolled her shoulder where her separated collarbone had taken her out of the last few rounds of the previous season. “It’s better now,” she admitted begrudgingly. “I’m back riding again, but it won’t ever be this.”

Amélie Dumont gave a Gaelic shrug of dismissal and eyed Alex carefully, “So why quit? You could be running again this season It might even have been your shot.”

Alex sighed and glanced away. “It was for the best, there’s less drama this way. I slip away on a medical excuse and nobody asks any questions; easy.”

Dumont raised an eyebrow and looked at her friend curiously. Alex glanced at the crowd and shook her head before pulling herself to her feet. Gesturing at the Frenchwoman to follow, she picked her way through the undergrowth and deeper into the forest. The light filtered down through the dense canopy, dappling the forest floor below them as they walked in silence for a few minutes until the race was a dull blur in the background behind them.

Turning to face her former rival, a girl who had nearly always beaten her, Alex smiled ruefully and wiped a tear from her before explaining what she couldn’t say in public. “Amélie, I had to retire, because they banned me from competing.”

“Merde! For what reason?” the Frenchwoman exclaimed with a snarl, “You’ve never done anything worthy of it.”

Alex shifted awkwardly and glanced away to focus her thoughts. “Amélie, they banned me from competing with the women because I wasn’t born as one.”

“That trans thing the UCI pushed a few months ago? Wait, you’re… one of… you’re that?”

Alex nodded sadly and blushed, unable to meet the woman’s gaze, “yes.”

The two stood in silence for several moments before Alex felt an arm on her own. Glancing up, she met Dumont’s gaze and flushed pink. “I’m sorry,” she muttered quietly. “You must feel like I deceived you.”

“Whatever for ma chérie? You are apologizing for being yourself? You have harmed no one at all. Non, no, Alex, I do not hate you. Am I surprised? Oui, you are a pretty girl. I would never have guessed it.” Amélie smiled and hugged the young woman.

Separating from the hug, Alex wiped her eyes and sat down heavily on a nearby log. She felt no guilt at living in stealth, keeping this part of herself from others. Truly, it didn’t matter to them. This was her story, her existence and her right to be taken as what she had always known she was. It wasn’t their business, and she was comfortable with that. The relief she felt now was different. She felt relief that she could now share her pain at the organizing body’s decision. That another person she knew could understand why had done what she did. She waited for her friend to join her before she began to explain her story.

“I transitioned back when I was a teenager, ten years ago when I was Fifteen,” she admitted. “I came out to my parents and I saw psychiatrists, all that stuff. I was able to graduate high school as a girl and I had surgery on my eighteenth birthday. I’ve only ever competed on the pro circuit as a girl. Hell, I only ever rode a mountain bike since I transitioned. Now? I can’t compete at all.”

“They said you can race in the open class… but we don’t have that category for downhill do we?” Amélie grimaced as she realized the technicality. “It would be ridiculous to have you racing against the men. They would destroy you, they destroy even my times.”

“I couldn’t do it, even if I could keep up with them Amé, it would be humiliating. Everyone would know about me; I’d be a joke.” Alex sighed. “Amélie, I don’t have the size, or muscle to compete with the men. I don’t even have an advantage over the other girls. You, Marie, Sarah, and Jo beat the crap out of me on power and endurance most times out. The assholes out there that hate us claim with no medical experience whatsoever that I’ve got bigger and stronger bones than you, that my muscle is just… better.”

Amélie chuckled, “You might be slower, but you are a rabbit when it comes to technique, it makes up I think.”

Alex grinned, a sliver of happiness showing through her sadness for a brief time at the woman’s respect.

“They say it’s all in the name of fairness for women’s sports. According to them, it’s not fair that I compete with you because of some arbitrary fact that some people might have an advantage. That some person might decide to compete with the boys for years then just drop of the hat switch to our series and kick our asses.”

Amélie looked at her friend sitting beside her. Alex stood close to her own five foot six and her trim athletic figure was plain to see through her shorts and tank top. The girl looked almost exactly the same as she did when she wasn’t wearing armor under her shorts and jersey. “It seems unfair to treat it as a blanket ban. To force you to race openly if you want a chance at all is cruel. I should think this is your business and nobody else's.” Amélie thought about Alex’s last words and chuckled, “You said come in and kick our asses.”
Alex shrugged, “Yeah, it’s our series, I can’t think of myself as anything but female these days.”

Amélie nodded and smiled, “Even now Chére, I don’t see you otherwise.”

“You’re not mad that I never told you?”

Amélie shook her head. “Non, no Alex, I am not. This is your private business and not mine. All I see before me is a pretty lady and a bitch to try and beat down the hill. You’re clearly not into this to sneak a look at my boobies if that boy toy of yours is anything to go by.” she chuckled. “He knows, yes?”

Alex nodded, “yeah, he’s known since we met. I was very lucky to find someone so understanding. He's my everything.”

“Then why not continue to race and screw them? They don’t have to know.”

“UCI know,” Alex sighed. “They had to, even though it was the past. They know from drug tests, and they know because I told them. It used to be fine, I was more than fine… I passed their requirements and they left it there. The media never had anything to go on and it was all just so much a fact of my past. This stupid ruling meant that if it did come to light, that I was forced to run another category, or it got out into the press it would destroy Mathew, I couldn’t allow that to happen to him.”

“I can understand that,” Amélie nodded grimly. “You give up your passion to protect him from this. That is love.”

Alex nodded sadly, “selfishly, myself too. You see what they do to people like me.”

Amélie shook her head and placed her hand on Alex’s arm. “A person like you is a beautiful, kind, funny happy girl. Nothing more, nothing less. You earned your spot amongst us, you proved you belong here. I have seen you ride, I have seen you train, and I have seen the kind of woman you are. There is no man here with us,” Amélie insisted, " no man here at all.”

“Tell them that.” Alex spat, kicking a twig. “Tell them that I’m a human being who deserves dignity and respect. I’m a person that has feelings and hopes, dreams and passion. Tell them Amélie, because they took mine without blinking an eye and forced me into this situation, they forced it on any of us competing at every level from pro to amateur… why? Because none of us are seriously going to become pariahs and compete as a third category. That is, even if there was enough of us to do so.”

“They are so obsessed with what is a woman,” Amélie snorted. “The American politicians, they talk the same way in France also. They say what is a woman? Then they make it all about our uterus and periods; having babies and things like that. It is funny, no? To them, all we are is a baby factory on legs. No uterus? Useless, why even be a woman if you cannot do all we are good for non?”

Alex smiled sadly at the idea. “While I wish I had a uterus of my own for selfish reasons, you are right; they don’t see us as people. They do not see that we are capable of everything they are. Women can be doctors or police officers. Academics, scientists, astronauts. We can be athletes or mothers, artists or architects… a woman is whatever she wants to be.”

“Bon, you get it, and that’s what makes you a woman Alex.” Amélie smiled. “It is not like I was born a woman. I was a girl, you were not. We both grew up and became women because of what we experienced. We learned, lived, loved, and fought for it. It was different perhaps,” she shrugged. “The path we took, but we both got there in the end. We got there because we both earned it.”

“I’ll still come to the races you know,” Alex offered looking over at a woman she had called both a friend and rival. “It’s just going to be hard to get over my regrets.”

Amélie smiled as she ran her hand through her hair. “Ma Chérie, it is impossible to live life without regrets. We won’t get everything right that we wanted. But our regrets, those things we wish were different go on to shape what we do in the future. They go on to fuel our success.”


Comments are the lifeblood of authors. Please leave a comment with your thoughts/feelings and I'll answer! Let me know what you think!

If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
103 users have voted.

And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks. 
This story is 2366 words long.