Today was a historic day for equality in cycling. The Ladies raced La Course by Le Tour de France on the bumpy Champs-Elysees. For this story, the winner, Marianne Vos, is not as important as what it took to make this event happen.
Saying that there is a discrepancy between the way professional male and female cyclist are treated is an understatement. If one thinks it’s hard to make a living as a pro man, it is magnified for the ladies. Just a few of the challenges are the cost of travel, the lack of races, the size of the purses, or lack there-of, the UCI leadership not seeing a value to high caliber woman races, an old boy culture that thinks girls are not tough enough for multiday races.
Living in Tucson, we had the opportunity to see one of our local riders, Kathryn Bertine, compete in the historic La Course. At 39, this may have been one of her last professional races of this magnitude, but what is really remarkable is her journey to get to this point both on and off the bike.
Kathryn has been one of the most outspoken advocates for a women’s field in the Tour De France. Last year she premiered a movie in Tucson about the inequality in cycling. According to the films website, www.halftheroad.com , “HALF THE ROAD is a documentary film that explores the world of women’s professional cycling, focusing on both the love of sport and the pressing issues of inequality that modern-day female riders face in a male dominated sport. With footage from some of the world’s best UCI races to interviews with Olympians, World Champions, rookies, coaches, managers, officials, doctors and family members, HALF THE ROAD offers a unique insight to the drive, dedication, and passion it takes for a female cyclist to thrive. Both on and off the bike, the voices and advocates of women’s pro cycling take the audience on a journey of enlightenment, depth, strength, love, humor and best of all, change & growth.”
The film and her passion to see a women’s race has been a consuming passion for the past three years. Today, she not only was able to witness the fruits of her labor, but raced on team Wiggle Honda! It is a modern day fairy tale come true. As of a week ago I thought this was the entire story. Local girl takes on the world and wins!!!
Click here for Photo album from Half The Road World Premiere in Tucson
Last week, I asked Kathryn if we could meet for an interview before she left for the race. We were unable to hook up, but I did get in one question on the fly. I asked “What has no one else asked you, that you really would like to have been asked about all this?” She replied “I’ll think about it. But that’s your job, investigator. ” Two days later she released a brutally honest video that answered the question.
As with most fairy tales, the hero must face adversity. Every day, everyone must make a decision of how they are going to spend the day. There is only so much time. Do you spend those hours on a bike ride training, with family, in school, at work, religion, friends, entertainment, creativity, social engagements, pets, marriage, advocacy? You can’t have all of them and still be the best in everything. Something has to give. Based on the video, it is clear that Kathryn choose the Cycling world, training and advocacy. As a result, she lost in the other areas. She shares that she has lost her marriage, work, house, and even her cats.
Yet the video is not a complaint of what is lost, but a testament to what has been gained. The Wiggle-Honda team giving her a contract, the existence of La Course at Le Tour De France, the success of Half the Road, and the future of a sport that she so dearly loves.
Personally, I cried when I watched the video. Not only because of the pains that she has endured, the hard choices she made but because it resonates so much for me personally. I sum it up as Opportunity Costs! What are we willing to give up too achieve our deepest desires? For example, This is the first time I’ve posted to Bike Pilgrim in a few months because my family, professional work and bike advocacy have dominated my time.
I think the take away from this is that we need to find the balance and be present in everything we do. Congratulations to all of the ladies who raced, and those that fought to see La Course happen in the first place. And a special Thank You to our local hero, Kathryn Berntine, for taking more onto your shoulders than anyone should and for seeing it through to the end. May you find peace and balance from this day forward.
Here is the link to her exceptional video. Just for a Day