Should Lael Wilcox’s Arizona Trail FKT Come with an Asterisk?
When one of bikepacking’s best athletes set a fastest known time on a legendary route, ultradistance cycling’s corner of the internet exploded in controversy around the meaning of the term “self-supported”
On April 21, 34-year-old bikepacker Lael Wilcox pedaled into the Stateline Campground on the border between Arizona and Utah. She had just finished the Arizona Trail, an 827-mile route, in record time: 9 days, 8 hours, and 23 minutes, which bested the existing record by more than two hours.
Wilcox, a rising star in the niche cycling discipline of ultradistance cycling, was thrilled. Her days on-trail had been grueling: she averaged just under 90 miles a day on a rocky, technical route that involved ample hike-a-bike. She carried all her own supplies, found water and food along the way, and pedaled without a pacer or support crew. But she was not alone. Her wife, photojournalist Rue Kaladyte, and a friend, Sean Randolph, drove along the route and hiked or biked out to Wilcox about twice a day to shoot videos and photos of her effort. They took pains not to provide her with any mechanical assistance or to hand her any food or drink, as a way to preserve the ride’s status as being self-supported.
But when Wilcox finished the ride and announced her time online, John Schilling, the race director for the Arizona Trail Race, an annual mass-start event in late October, called into question whether Wilcox had followed the rules of self-supported racing.
“Rules,” he posted on Instagram. “The AZTR has them and enforces them. Rule #2 explicitly states no media crews & no record will be acknowledged if a media crew is used. There’s also a visitation rule which states excessive use may result in relegation. Unfortunately this too occurred over the entire 800 miles. Lael’s finish time…will be noted, but not recognized as the self-supported record for violating the above rules.” According to Schilling, Wilcox’s time would be listed in official race records, but with an asterisk next to it, because having Randolph and Kaladyte following her conferred emotional support.
Schilling had already informed Kaladyte and Wilcox midride that Kaladyte’s photography was at odds with the race rules, and Wilcox decided to continue with her initial approach and accept the asterisk—it seemed the situation was resolved. Then Wilcox and the cycling website The Radavist both made Instagram posts announcing the new FKT without adding an asterisk, prompting Schilling’s announcement. And after his initial caption, Schilling added a comment that seemed to accuse Wilcox of cheating, and the conversation soured.
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