Grounded Nebraska’s The Mid South Non-Binary Race Coverage


Grounded Nebraska’s The Mid South Non-Binary Race Coverage

The Mid South hired Grounded Nebraska to provide non-binary race coverage at this year’s gravel season opener in Stillwater. As an accompaniment to Jarrod’s reportage from last week and a followup to her article from 2023, Sally Turner of Grounded Nebraska penned this comprehensive non-binary category coverage from this year’s The Mid South. Check it out below!

Author’s Note

I was honored and humbled to work alongside my fellow “Gravel Moms”, Susan Cronin and Cait Dumas-Hein, to provide coverage for the non-binary race at The Mid South this year. It was a joy and a privilege to follow these riders along the course and share their stories.

In 2023, as The Mid South Event Manager, I asked cycling media to give equal coverage to the non-binary, men and women races, but outlet after outlet declined to include the non-binary category or didn’t even reply, so I decided to write it myself (thanks for publishing me, The Radavist!). The Mid South offered dedicated non-binary coverage for the first time in 2023 and is continuing to raise the standard for gravel events everywhere with its commitment to equal coverage.

In 2024, not much has changed. The Mid South hired the Grounded Nebraska crew (Cronin, Dumas-Hein, and myself) and videographer Danny Awang to produce non-binary coverage, commentary, and footage on race day.

A single cycling media platform invited us to submit a non-binary race report to run alongside their planned coverage of the men’s and women’s categories. This is a slight improvement on last year, but I was still amazed at the resistance we encountered in trying to achieve equal coverage of all three gender categories. Once again, The Radavist came in clutch to publish our coverage.

These athletes are incredible, not only in their physical prowess and unique backgrounds, but also in their strength, compassion and resilience. They deserve the same level of recognition as the men’s and women’s categories, and the media’s reluctance to treat them as such is simply shameful.

We at Grounded Nebraska and The Mid South believe access to sport is a human right, and we will keep fighting for equal representation.


The Mid South 2024 non-binary podium underwent a reshuffling after a record number of participants registered for the category at the race, which many consider to be the start of the gravel cycling season.

Newcomer Li King edged out defending champion Rach McBride for the 100-mile nonbinary win, followed by third-place Emily Robbins, yet another gravel newcomer.

King and McBride kept pace with each other for much of the race before King sprinted to the finish in 5:18:05, slicing two minutes and 12 seconds off McBride’s 2023 course record. McBride followed 14 seconds later to claim the second podium.

Connor Jacobson took first in the non-binary single-speed category in 8:59:09, moving up a step on the podium from 2023.

Bonnie Branson returned to Stillwater to defend their title and secured the Double Champion for a third time, finishing the 50K ultra marathon on Friday, March 15 in 4:34:33 and the 100-mile race on Saturday in 6:47:38 for a combined time of 11:22:11. Timmi Mh Tanner was close behind in second place in 11:50:15, and Issac Sederbaum took third at 14:37:12.

The Mid South 2024

Race day in Stillwater, Okla., dawned gray and chilly, but the air was electric as more than 3,000 riders lined up to share in the challenge of the 12th annual Mid South, including more than 30 riders in the non-binary category.

As non-binary and gender-expansive fields in cycling continue to grow with no signs of stopping, the logical next step is for cycling media to  report on these new players with the same interest and intent afforded to the men’s and women’s frontrunners. Unfortunately, anti-queer resistance across the United States and the world is making this recognition easier typed than done.

Pundits and elected officials are becoming more outspoken in their hatred of individuals living outside the established gender binary. In 2024, anti-queer and trans legislation is running rampant across the United States with more than 500 bills currently in state legislatures.

In the wake of Nex Benedict’s death in February, Oklahoma State Senator Tom Woods did little to hide his true colors at a public forum in response to a question about protecting queer students.

“We are a Republican state – supermajority – in the House and Senate, and I represent a constituency that doesn’t want that [LGBTQIA+] filth in Oklahoma,” Woods said on Feb. 23. “We are a religious state and we are going to fight it to keep that filth out of the state of Oklahoma because we are a Christian state – we are a moral state.”

But, despite the hatred and vitriol prevalent in Oklahoma, more non-binary and gender-expansive riders and supporters showed up in Stillwater than in previous years, and their message is clear: we are here, and we aren’t leaving.

Coming from a variety of backgrounds and fitness levels, the 33 riders who toed the start line have more in common than a mutual love of cycling — they want to compete as their true, authentic selves in their own category.

And compete, they did. Spectators witnessed the tightest race ever seen within The Mid South’s non binary category.

At 8 a.m. sharp, the peloton flew out of Stillwater and reached the infamous Wild Horse Creek crossing at a spicy 26 mph average. Most riders opted to carry their bikes across a narrow part of the creek, but a few intrepid souls plunged into the frigid, calf-deep water to cut the line. McBride successfully splashed a line through the muddy water and sped off with a grin.

In a field as big as The Mid South, it’s hard to keep an eye on fellow podium contenders, which can contribute a level of excitement and anxiety to any rider’s experience.

Around mile 15, King sustained a mechanical.“I kept going but didn’t really know how to feel — Is my race done? I’m probably in second,” King recalled. “I hadn’t seen Rach all race, or even at the start so I was convinced that they were miles ahead of me and just gone.”

King’s confidence was shaky even before the start. They’re no stranger to cycling — King has raced in the velodrome for almost 10 years and is the 2023 Single Speed Cyclocross World Non-Binary Champion, but The Mid South was their first major gravel race.

“I’ve been riding and racing a lot this past year, so I knew where my fitness was, but I didn’t know how fast Rach would be or the course, or how technical the course would be,” King said. “Then Rach caught up to me.”

A professional triathlete, McBride has years of experience, training, and discipline to inform their athletic endeavors, as well as an appreciation for their competitors’ access to those same things.

“Often, I’m coming into these races like this is my job – I’m a full-time athlete,” McBride said. “I’ve been doing this for so long, and I feel like I have this privilege that other NB racers don’t have. Even with the field here, there are no other full-time NB athletes. I still feel like a little bit of an outlier.”

McBride didn’t know much about King as a racer, except that they are a strong rider.

“The only thing I really heard about Li’s background is that they do cyclocross and velodrome,” which is a different style of racing, McBride said. “I know how to ride and fuel myself… I felt like that would be my strength.”

So King and McBride battled each other and their inner demons for miles, and they had fun doing it.

“Right after we left [the halfway point in] Perry, we were riding together,” King recalled with an audible smile. “And Rach looked over and said, ‘I’m so happy that you’re here,’ and I said, ‘Me too, I really hope I can hang on!”

But as they neared the finish line in Downtown Stillwater, the stakes in this friendly competition got higher. McBride began thinking about putting some distance between them and King, but King was nothing if not persistent.

McBride had good reason to put as many miles — or even yards — between them as possible; they had a gut feeling it would come down to a sprint finish, but they were going to put up a fight, and took advantage of course knowledge from 2023.

“I made a last attempt at getting a gap in the single track, and I thought I made some distance,” they said, and laughed. “I’m coming out of the single track and back on the gravel and I hear this chirp behind me and, ‘Oh, that was really fun!’ Li was right back behind me.”

King also knew this race could end neck-and-neck, and stuck to McBride’s wheel like red clay on a derailleur.

“Two miles to go, Rach made a pretty big attack trying to drop us, but I saw what was happening and jumped right on their wheel,” King said. “I knew that I’m a really good sprinter and I could probably take that win if it was just me and Rach.”

The last few blocks to the finish line sealed their fate, McBride recalled.

“I rode as hard as I could and completely gutted myself, and when the time came, Li turned on the afterburners and was gone,” McBride said. “They put 14 seconds on me in two or three blocks.”

Li King sailed across the finish line to a champagne photo finish at 1:18 p.m., smashing McBride’s top podium hopes and The Mid South non-binary course record.

After their 2023 win, McBride spoke with excitement about the growing representation of non-binary athletes in cycling and other sports, even if that meant losing. (link to 2023 article)

“I want to see people pushing me off the podium, I want to be challenged,” they shared in 2023. “That would be really, really rad.”

Despite being a step lower on the podium — “It’s a little bittersweet” — their feelings about the increasing field of competition haven’t changed, and credits yet another non binary cyclist with inspiring them to pursue racing in the non-binary field.

“I don’t think I would have felt this way, or I would have said that last year if it had not been for the inspiration I got from Abi (Robins) after they won Unbound (Gravel 100 in 2021) for the first time,” McBride said. “I’m an incredibly competitive person and to openly talk about how I’m hoping and truly believing that someone can knock me off the top step, I still stand by that.”

At a certain point, it’s not about the win anymore — it’s about the community and competing with their peers.

“I have so much joy that the people I’m racing against and who were on the podium are just really amazing humans, as well as athletes… It’s play, we get to play together,” McBride said.

Gravel cycling has grown into a haven for minority groups who may struggle to find a community in the sport, and the joy of finding camaraderie is palpable.

“I love cycling for what it is, but I also get to meet these other people who are fantastic individuals from across the world, and we share very similar ideologies and outlooks on life and lifestyles,” King said. “It’s so amazing to have this huge common thing with people you’ve never met.”

For all the anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiment in the media,The Mid South is doing its part to combat hate.

“NB folks and trans folks have existed since humans have existed,” Race Director Bobby Wintle said. “We are working to legitimize this category, so they will be recognized on the same level as the men’s and women’s categories.”

Moments after Robbins rolled over the finish line, they expressed deep gratitude to The Mid South race promoters and media present.

“Thank you for creating this space for us,” they said. “It really is very meaningful. Being able to really be who I am has changed my life, and I’m really very appreciative.”

More representation of gender outside of the binary is necessary in the media, King said.

“I think it’s important because we exist, and we’re not going to stop existing,” they said. “The amount of non binary people is increasing as people realize how fluid gender and identity really is. I think it’s something that really needs to be shown – the variance and the existence of NB people all over the place.”

Normalizing non-binary and trans bodies in media helps normalize them in everyday life, King said.

“I think most transphobes have never met a trans person,” King said. “They’re just scared of the unknown or they’ve been watching all this crazy media that’s not representative of real people just living their life and wanting to exist.”

Tilly Schull, a cycling media photographer and longtime supporter of The Mid South, shared a story highlighting this exact sentiment. Schull said her dad was observing the non binary podium ceremony and ‘didn’t understand what this third gender category was about.’

“My dad is a machinist, a conservative, blue-collar worker in Stillwater,” she said. “He wasn’t even supposed to be there (on Saturday), and he just happened to show up during podiums.

“But we were able to explain what it is and why it’s different, and because he was able to see them in person… presented on the same level as the men and women, rather than seeing it on Facebook or Fox News where it’s twisted and politicized, he understood it,” she said. “He said, ‘Okay, I get it, that makes sense.’ It was a really big deal for him to see this in the moment, and outside of the regular narrative.”

The Mid South is slated for March 13-16, 2025, and McBride said they’re already planning their comeback. Registration will open in September 2024.

Grounded NE

Grounded Nebraska is a gravel race and ride outside of Lincoln, NE, with three gender categories and race distances, equity-based cash podiums, and summer camp vibes. Their ethos, “cycling is for everyone,” garners a community-centric and inclusive atmosphere for gravel riders, racers, and party pacers alike.