Recognizing the obstacles facing female cyclists, Kathryn Bertine ’97 is paving a new course for women’s cycling. This Sunday, she’ll compete in La Course — a one-day race for women that is sponsored by Le Tour de France — which her activism group, Le Tour Entier, helped create this year.
On July 27, 107 women will participate in the 56-mile race on Le Tour de France’s final circuit, where they will finish down the Champs-Élysées. The one-day event takes place on the same day (but ends shortly before) the conclusion of the male-only, 23-day Le Tour de France.
“The Tour de France is the pinnacle event in cycling,” said Bertine, who will be competing for Wiggle Honda, the leading British professional trade team. “I saw how many other women, including the Olympic champions and national medalists, also wanted to race the Tour de France,” she added, “and I thought, why aren’t women able to participate?”
When Bertine started cycling in 2007, the inequality between men’s and women’s cycling became clear, she said. “I noticed immediately that there was a discrepancy; women weren’t allowed to compete in the same distances and we didn’t have as much opportunity to race. The women’s side of the sport was not a fair playing field in terms of gaining sponsorship and media exposure.”
In fact, Le Tour de France previously had an equivalent race for women between 1984–1989 that was disbanded because of organizational and funding problems.
To bring back the event, Bertine and her cofounders — Chrissie Wellington, Marianne Vos, and Emma Pooley — campaigned to persuade the race organizer Amaury Sports Organization to host the women’s race.
Using the platform Change.org, they garnered 97,000 signatures in just three weeks. The signatures “really began to turn the heads of the cycling world and the outside affiliated world,” said Bertine.
When Bertine is not training on her bike, which she does six days a week, she is an ESPN journalist, author, and documentary filmmaker. Her third book, The Road Less Taken, will be published in September.
“I want to be part of the change that brings women’s sports into the limelight and celebrates strong women,” asserted Bertine. “When I get on that start line on the twenty-seventh, I should be easily identifiable as the happiest rider in the peloton.”
Tune in to watch Bertine in La Course on the Universal Sports Network Sunday, July 27 at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time.
“We really hope the public will watch, as it will help create the sustainability we need to have more races in the future,” emphasized Bertine.
Find your local channel: http://universalsports.com/tv-listings/channel-finder/ or watch online on Universal Sports Live http://universalsports.com/video/universal-sports-network-watch-live/