Last night the Mad City Velo club hosted a viewing of “Half the Road”, a documentary by Kathryn Bertine. Kathryn is a seasoned professional cyclist who spent many months, if not years, traveling around the world to participate in women’s cycling races sanctioned by the UCI in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics.
Not only does the documentary tell Kathryn’s story, but also stories of many seasoned pro women cyclists and how the world of competitive cycling is still in the dark ages when it comes to equality in the sport.
The documentary showcases additional interviews with supporters and advocates of women’s cycling including coaches, trainers, shop owners, sponsors, celebrities, and the famous Bob Roll (Tour de France announcer).
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have representatives from the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) who defend their archaic stances on women’s cycling as a competitive sport. They cite lack of sponsorship dollars, lack of spectator interest, and lack of elite level athletes as the root cause of having no equal platform of stage racing for women’s cycling. All falsehoods promoted by the figureheads of the UCI to create epic gender inequalities in the sport of cycling.
If you see the film, you should definitely pay attention to the “Pentagram of Blame”. It all starts and ends with the UCI blaming other outlets such as sponsors, riders, and media for their lack of commitment to women riders.
Fun facts we learned from the documentary include:
-Women can only ride 8 day stage races. (The men’s Tour de France spans 21 days)
-There are limitation on distances of any UCI women’s race.
-There was a median age rule that stated teams must have a certain percentage of riders under the age of 28 (this has since been lifted).
-At one point the UCI considered telling women who were menstruating that they couldn’t compete!
(We’re glad to say this never ended up becoming a rule!)
-Back in the late 70’s and early 80’s there was a shorter version of the Tour de France stage race for women that occurred on the same days and courses as the men’s race. Spoiler Alert: The spectators LOVED it!
There’s lots of other unsettling information “Half the Road” covers in the documentary, but we’ll leave that up to you to watch. While the film is hard hitting with seemingly depressing information, Bertine and the other subjects are able to present the information with some comic relief. Parodies of the UCI rules and racing circumstances had filled the theater with laughter on many occasions.
Overall the film was a great watch and we would recommend it for any sports fan.
Since we are on the subject, we also want to plug LA COURSE! It’s a one day race for women during the 2014 Tour de France. It’s not quite the awesome version of the stage races of the 80’s, but it’s at least one way the UCI can make up for their lackluster support of women racers.
NBC sports is offering coverage of the race, so check with your local cable provider or bike shop if you’d like to watch the race! Coverage starts around 7:30AM (not sure what time zone, which is a little frustrating), but if you don’t mind being an early bird, you can watch it LIVE!