As with most holidays, I spent Easter Sunday at my childhood home as my parents hosted family festivities. Luckily for me, they understand my quirkiness and didn’t blink when I brought my bike and trainer to setup for a two-hour ride before the rest of the clan arrived. And so I grooved along while tuning the TV to live coverage of Paris-Roubaix — the one-day cycling classic which is famous for its cobblestone terrain. As they showed Tom Boonen peddling away for the win, my mom looked over at me and commented, “They’re going faster than you.” My first thought: God I hope so or it’s a sad, sad day for the world or cycling. My second thought: Maybe I could pick up the pace a little bit.
And so will go my spring and summer as the only time I will watch TV aside from reruns of Law & Order will likely be to watch the big cycling races. (Don’t bother me in July. It’s Tour de France month.) Of course these big-time cycling races involve only male cyclists. To see what a female cyclists is capable of, well, you have to be quite the Internet researcher.
Here’s the basic problem: There aren’t enough opportunities for women in elite cycling. Given the opportunity, the base grows and as the base grows so too does the level competition. Performances get better. More women get into the sport. When women’s racing opportunity is equal to the men it’s a tide that raises all boats. The best example may be professional triathlon where courses and prize money are equal. It creates respect. It creates competition. And everyone, from the elite men down to the age-groupers, can benefit. Cycling is missing a golden opportunity to grow the sport.
Enter journalist and cyclist Kathryn Bertine, author of the book As Good as Gold. (Disclaimer: I absolutely, positively, love Kathryn Bertine. That is all.) She’s made a fantastic short video outlining her story and setting up her next quest: To produce a documentary about the greatness, and the controversies, of women’s pro cycling while pursing her own Olympic cycling goal. She’s raising money to fund the project, but even her fundraising efforts might help raise awareness. Because once you see something which sparks your imagination, you start to create dreams for yourself. And once we start dreaming and pursing our passions, the whole world benefits.