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.'"