By Susan Dunlap
Silver City Sun-News, N.M.
Kathryn Bertine, 38, didn’t know when ESPN gave her a reporting assignment in 2006 that it would lead, eventually, not only to a career in women’s cycling, but also to a documentary about gender discrimination, plus a book.
Her documentary, “Half the Road,” will be screened at the Besse-Forward Global Resource Center Auditorium at WNMU following the Stage 4 race in downtown Silver City.
When Bertine worked as a print journalist for ESPN’s website and magazine, she was already a professional triathalete.
Her editor asked her to spend the next two years in training to see if she could become an Olympic athlete and compete for the gold. ESPN wanted Bertine to blog about her experience.
“I had no idea at the time it would lead to such an all-encompassing love for the sport (of cycling),” Bertine said.
Bertine tried out different sports to see which Olympic sport would suit her.
Eventually she found her way to cycling and once she did, she said she was hooked. One of her earliest cycling competitions was the Tour of the Gila.
“It’s really special for me to come back to Gila, where it truly started for me on a larger stage,” Bertine said.
Bertine said that for her first race in the Tour of the Gila, she managed to finish and that her results were somewhere in the forties.
“Not that bad,” Bertine said, laughing. “For a first timer. Just getting her feet wet, yet humbling all at the same time.”
As Bertine continued to race, she began to notice discrimination within the sport.
She claims the discrimination can most strongly be felt for women cyclists in opportunities, distance limitation and the prize purse.
“I kept having this conversation in my own head,” Bertine said. “I kept saying someone should make a documentary about this, then OK, maybe it’s me.”
With just a flip camera, Bertine started going to races and talking to her competitors, asking if they wanted to be involved in a documentary about gender discrimination in the sport of women’s cycling.
She said her female cyclists overwhelmed her, they were so supportive and ready to go on camera and talk about the issue. She then realized it was time to hire a professional camera man.
Bertine began raising money through indiegogo, a crowd sourcing online method of fundraising, similar to Kickstarter. She managed to raise $75,000. Even so, she had to dig into her own pocket to complete the film.
“By eating more pasta,” she joked.
In January 2014 Bertine launched the premiere of the documentary in Tucson at the Loft.
“It was really an incredible day,” Bertine said. “It’s a 500-seat theater and it sold out the day before the showing.”
Bertine said there had been no response from former USCI Director Pat McQuaid. In the beginning of the trailer for the documentary, Bertine notes that UCI men receive a base minimun-wage salary.
When McQuaid was asked if he thought women UCI cyclists should also receive a minimum wage salary, he responded by saying, “I am not so sure.”
The current UCI president Brian Cookson has not seen the documentary yet, so he hasn’t made a comment, according to Bertine. But she said the response from male and female cyclists has been strong.
Bertine praised Tour of the Gila director Jack Brennan as someone who is very supportive of helping women in the sport gain equality. But there’s still a long way to go.
According to Brennan, the men’s professional teams and individual cyclists can expect to receive approximately $35,000 in prize-purse awards when the Tour of the Gila is complete.
The professional women’s cyclists and teams can expect to see somewhere between $15,000 to $16,000.
Brennan also said he would like to see the women’s cycling at the Tour of the Gila receive the international designation, but in order to get that, the Tour of the Gila would have to raise approximately $100,000 additional dollars.
“My biggest goal was to do right by these women (cyclists),” Bertine said. “I wanted it to be representative of our struggle and our passion for cycling. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I think we succeeded. We told the story we needed to tell so the world can understand our past and understand our future.”