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Lea Davison is not satisfied with just being a champion mountain biker. She’s also become a champion of inclusivity in the outdoors. Through her candidness about being an openly gay athlete, and her actions on and off the track, she is helping empower a whole generation of marginalized groups to feel more comfortable spending time outside – and in their own skin.

In honor of Pride month, we caught up with Lea in between training sessions to get her take on how far we’ve come in making the outdoors a welcome place for everyone, and why that’s something worth celebrating.

L.L.Bean: As you reflect on the last 20 years of your career, back when you first started racing competitively, what can you say there is to celebrate about acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in outdoor sports?

Lea: In general, LGBTQ+ rights and visibility has come a long way since the initial years of my cycling career. When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2015, it was a landmark moment that brought LGBTQ+ rights a long way in life and in sport. This, combined with high-visibility gay athletes coming out and being celebrated, has had a profound impact. When Megan Rapinoe and Adam Rippon are celebrated for being exactly who they are, it creates more space for other gay athletes to be exactly who they are. It creates a safer environment and gives other gay athletes permission and confidence to be out.

L.L.Bean: Do you think that competing on some of the world’s biggest stages has helped move LGBTQ+ inclusivity forward?

Lea: Yes! The more visible LGBTQ+ athletes are, the better! I have actively leaned into showing this aspect of myself, and the positive relationship with my wife, Frazier, because it gives others permission to be themselves. It's an opportunity for people to see that I am a professional athlete with support from sponsors and I am gay. This sends the message to others that their sexuality will not affect their goals and dreams.

L.L.Bean: Was there a point in your own life where you finally felt you could be your full self, and did that effect how you approached your career as a competitive athlete?

Lea: In 2018, when Frazier and I were getting ready to get married, my sponsors really put a lot of effort into celebrating our marriage. L.L.Bean sent us a wedding present, and supportive acts like this really sent an impactful message. I felt like I was finally given the permission and freedom to be fully myself, and decided that I wanted to try and give the same gift to other LGBTQ+ people. I started to show more of my relationship with Frazier on social media and to live life a little bit more out loud. If I can just make a positive impact on one kid, then it's worth it.

L.L.Bean: What kind of work do you think needs to happen to make the outdoors a truly inclusive place?

Lea: Where to start! There's a lot that needs to happen to make the outdoors an inclusive space. One action is representation of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and all different types of people in leadership and decision-making positions. Only when we finally bring all perspectives to the table can we uncover blind spots, and start to move the needle on being more inclusive.

L.L.Bean: Little Bellas, which you co-founded, is empowering the next generation of young women to get into mountain biking. How do you think your organization and others like yours are helping to push equality in the outdoors?

Lea: Since sports and the outdoors have added so much to the lives of me and my sister, we wanted to create opportunity, positivity, and connection for as many girls as possible. Little Bellas is committed to equitable access for all participants, and we are really excited about our new partnership with Black Girls Do Bike. We are going to support each others’ programs, and our mentors will run clinics to support their women in learning to mountain bike. It's important to have organizations that are intentionally reducing the barriers to outdoor access and taking actions to make that goal a reality.

L.L.Bean: Beyond mountain biking, how does spending time outside enrich your life? How does fresh air make you feel?

Lea: The outdoors is such a grounding force. Whenever I feel off kilter or that I need to process something, I move through it outside. Fresh air and the outdoors are the great healers and an incredible source of positivity for me.

L.L.Bean: Anybody who follows your Instagram (@leaeatsalot) knows you have a notorious sweet tooth. Are there any go-to treats that you can’t live (or train) without?

Lea: Yes! I do have a notorious sweet tooth and I'm not too picky when it comes to sweets. I love any and all gummy candies and I can often be found with some in my back pocket on an adventure. This is very Vermont of me, but I have really gotten into drinking maple syrup to fuel my long rides.

Sometimes the most memorable adventures are to a destination! One of my favorite rides of 2020 is when I rode with Frazier to a donut cart, and we had the best maple-glazed donuts ever!

Lea Davison head shot

Lea Davison is one of the country’s top female mountain-bike racers, with a career spanning 20 years and over ten US championships. She is the co-founder of Little Bellas, a nonprofit committed to empowering young women through the sport of mountain biking. You can follow Lea as she trains, competes and eats lots of sweets on Instagram.

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