World class cyclist Loren Rowney had a powerful first-hand view of the impacts of climate change on her native Australia.

“Having visited the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 & 1999 as a child and then again as an in 2014, I saw first hand the effects of climate change on our natural environment,” recalled Rowney. “Most of the coral was bleached, and after 20 minutes swimming, I couldn’t bare to look at the this lifeless ecosystem that was once vibrant and full of life.”

Loren Rowney (Photo credit: Adam Watts)

Rowney, who studied Environmental Science with a focus on ecology and conservation biology at Griffith University on Australia’s Gold Coast, pursued a professional cycling career. She represented her country four times in the World Championships between 2012-16 and was a three-time stage winner in the women’s Route de France from 2012-15. During that time, she found that few of her fellow competitors on the cycling tour were interested in discussing climate change.

“I would say in general that the sport of cycling is a few years behind most other sports in terms of progression in gender equality, race and climate awareness as well as action,” Rowney shared. “I only remember having a few conversations with a likeminded teammate about the environmental issues we were facing, and just how environmentally unsustainable the professional sport of cycling is as a whole. You rarely see or hear conversations around climate in the cycling media or on social media platforms.”

Rowney, now based in Belgium, found out about EcoAthletes from one of our first Champions, the American cyclist Mara Abbott.

“I have the greatest respect for Mara not only as an athlete but as a person, so when she suggested I look in to the work EcoAthletes was doing, I didn’t even think twice,” said Rowney. “There is a lot of great advocacy work being done by many high profile athletes in the areas such as racial justice, gender equality and poverty, and when we begin to think of climate change and its effect on our society, it all becomes interlinked as one issue.”

EcoAthletes founder Lew Blaustein is excited to welcome Rowney as the first new Champion of 2021.

“Loren brings qualities to the Champions roster that I’m sure served her well on the cycling tour: Passion, perseverance and curiosity,” Blaustein noted. “EcoAthletes looks forward to working with her to help spark a #ClimateComeback in Belgium!”

Rowney sounds ready for the challenge: “My goal is to better educate and inspire people in cycling, in other sports, and in my community beyond sport to become engaged in the climate conversation and climate action. We need to collectively realize as a society that climate change affects all of us, and unless we take action now, we will have to question what kind of world we are leaving for our children and grandchildren.”

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Photo at Top: Loren Rowney in a 2016 Gold Coast (Australia) race (Photo credit: Adam Weathered)