By Kathryn Bertine
Dude, you gotta read this book!
No, seriously—men who ride bikes need to read this book. All of us. If we’re gonna make cycling—you know—less dude-ish, we have to try to understand what women are dealing with. As open and welcoming and pro-active as you think you are, if you’re like me, you still have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. Or, thanks to this book, had no idea.
STAND is Kathryn Bertine’s unvarnished personal account of her mission to get the women’s Tour de France reinstated. There used to be one. The first one was held in 1955, then a few more times until 1999. Then it was gone. So, Bertine asked why (or tried to). Every dogged attempt to reach the powers that be, to share data, to have a conversation about the case for equal opportunity—ignored, unacknowledged, dismissed. And Bertine’s no novice to bike racing—she famously pursued qualification for the Olympics for an ESPN documentary series, she was a multi-year national road-race and TT champion for Saint Kitts And Nevis, and later rode professionally for the Colavita-espnW and Wiggle High5 teams, among others. She literally had a working relationship with the UCI and Tour de France owners ASO. But her inquiries went unanswered.
So she started a petition, and she recruited others to, well, stand with her. And they (we) did (I signed the petition). But more formally, she had fellow pros like Emma Pooley and Marianne Vos on board. And, in fact, Pooley and Vos joined her for a meeting she finally got with Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme after their petition reached nearly 100,000 signatures. And, as an introduction (after seating himself at the head of the table), he had the audacity to tell them that if they wanted a meeting, they should have just asked.
To make matters worse, as Bertine writes, Prudhomme goes on to admonish the group by wagging his finger at them, saying, “You should not have initiated that petition.”
Let’s review: For four years, TdF boss ignores invitations to meet about bringing a women’s race back to The Tour, he finally agrees to meet after a massive campaign that generates tens of thousands of signatures and a storm on the Twittersphere, and opens the meeting by mansulting Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley, and Kathryn Bertine, who—by the way—collectively represent the following:
2x Olympic Gold Medal, 13x World Championship, 4x Continental Championship, 25x National Championship, 6x La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, 3x GC Ladies Tour of Norway, 3x Giro Rosa, 6x Trofeo Alfredo Binda, 3x Ronde van Drenthe, 2x La Course by Le Tour de France, 3x GC Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile, 3x GC Ladies Tour Of Norway, Amstel Gold Race, Ghent-Wevelgem, GC Tour De Yorkshire, GC Women’s Tour Of Britain, GC Brainwash Ladies Tour (not a typo), and on and on.
And the former journalist, who spends his Tours de France in the backseat of a car, sat before these champions to defend his organization’s misogynist past (let’s not even get started on podium girls) and wagged his finger.
You see the problem? And that’s just one page from STAND, which is an account of Bertine’s heroic efforts, public triumphs, and personal sacrifices in pursuit of equal opportunity in cycling. It’s also a manual for the rest of us who recognize there’s still much more work to be done, despite ASO having just announced a women’s Tour for 2022 (after an inexplicable 23-year absence). If we can’t change the little world of cycling, what hope do we have for changing society at large? It’s these microclimates, like the infamous “cycling bubble,” that are the canaries in the coal mine of change. It’s where we start. And it’s about time Bertine and her allies got some help.
When we finally do manage to slay this dragon, we’ll have a template for … just imagine. STAND is the wake up call for those of us who’ve slept in while others have been out on the road putting in the miles. Dude, it’s about time we took a pull.