Cycling has become a serious draw to Arkansas. In the Northwest latitudes, Tom and Steuart Walton and the Walton Family Foundation have spearheaded efforts that have created cycling-friendly infrastructure and a network of mountain bike trails that attract riders from all over the country.
Across the state there are popular pro and amateur races, gravel events and mass rides like Little Rock's annual Big Dam Bridge 100 that attract cycling enthusiasts here to enjoy their bikes.
The biggest competitive event on the horizon will happen Jan. 29-30, when the Union Cycliste International sanctioned 2022 Cyclocross World Championships take place at Centennial Park in Fayetteville.
It will be just the second time the race has been held outside Europe, and the best cyclocross racers on the planet will compete in Fayetteville.
Well, maybe not all of them.
The recent spate of what some see as anti-transgender legislation could have an impact. That includes House Bill 1570, whose veto by Gov. Asa Hutchinson was overridden by lawmakers, and will make Arkansas the first state in the U.S. to ban gender-affirming care for transgender minors; Act 461, banning transgender women and girls from participating in school sports, and Act 462, which allows medical care providers to refuse to provide treatment to a patient, diagnose that patient's condition or refer patients based on their conscientious objection.
Writing at bicycling.com, transgender American cyclocross pro Molly Cameron called the legislation "oppressive" and "hateful."
"And while I'm not calling for a boycott at the moment, I won't be going to the World Cup or World Championships if they stay in Arkansas," she says. "I will not be spending any money in Arkansas or any other state that is passing laws that discriminate against the LGBTQ community."
In a statement Tuesday from the Walton Family Foundation, Tom Walton said: "We are alarmed by the string of policy targeting LGBTQ people in Arkansas. This trend is harmful and sends the wrong message to those willing to invest in or visit our state."
While Union Cycliste International has not commented on the issue, Brook Watts, the 2022 World Championship race director, called the legislation "discriminatory and hateful."
He's against a boycott, however, and suggests donating to organizations like the Fayetteville Trans Equality Network.
On Friday USA Cycling, the sport's governing body in America, released a statement saying it is "unequivocally opposed to any legislative efforts that aim to limit an athlete's access to competition" and that it will "seek to place future USA Cycling National Championships in cities, counties, and states that welcome all our members."