On the road to equality: La Course

On the road to equality: La Course

Buggenhout, Belgium (KOLD) - Sunday, July 27th, will feel like a dream to professional cyclist and documentary filmmaker Kathryn Bertine. That is until the dream gives way to reality and strategy kicks in. After all, there is this race to win. This historic race.

"Emotionally, it's the highlight of my career," said Bertine. "It's everything that I've worked for the past few years."

For the first time since 1989, women cyclists will ride concurrent to the men during the Tour de France. It's an event called La Course and if there's anyone to thank for its inception, it's Bertine. Last July, the former Arizona Wildcat and Tucson resident teamed up with the likes of pro cyclist Emma Pooley, gold medalist Marianne Vos, and Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington to push a petition for a full-length women's race at the Tour. The petition garnered north of 90,000 signatures...and still wasn't enough.

Sunday's La Course is only a partial accomplishment. Instead of three weeks full of 21 stages, La Course is but a one day race coinciding with the men's finish. Instead of a 2,200 mile competition, La Course is but a 55 mile event through Paris, France that culminates in the Champs-Elysees. Still, as Bertine points out, it's a step in the right direction.

"The actual trajectory of the sponsorship and the media has not necessarily been in our favor because we haven't had the same opportunities for exposure," said Bertine. "But now the women are speaking up and speaking out saying 'We're here too and we want our time to shine.'"

It wasn't always like this. Even after the Tour de France stopped hosting concurrent races in 1989, it held a separate women's race as recent as 2009. However, that race disappeared thanks to a lack of sponsorship. Bertine is hoping sponsors start to take notice on Sunday.

"We feel that the women should be at the pinnacle event in cycling," said Bertine. "We targeted the Tour de France because that's the race that everybody knows regardless of their knowledge of cycling itself." 

Bertine, whose documentary "Half The Road" chronicles the struggle of women cyclists, will be one of the 120 women competing in La Course. She will wear the orange and black jersey of her new team, Wiggle Honda. She will soak in the moment. And then she will ride.

"It's a real moment for me to be here and get to race this event," said Bertine. 

It's a moment for the history books as well, one that could pave a whole new road for women cyclists everywhere.

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