Stand: A Memoir on Activism

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Kathryn Bertine built her professional cycling career as a three-time Caribbean Champion, six-time national champion of St. Kitts and Nevis (SKN) and five-year veteran of professional cycling, who rode with UCI domestic and World Tour teams Colavita, Wiggle-Honda, BMW, and Cylance Pro Cycling. 

Bertine was named to the inaugural Rodale100, a prestigious list of activists implementing positive change in the world after she took up the charge to have women admitted into the famed Tour de France.

Off the bike, she has been an ESPN contributor and senior editor for ESPNW and author of three nonfiction books, All the Sundays Yet to Come (Little, Brown)As Good As Gold (ESPN/RandomHouse), and The Road Less Taken (Triumph Books)

 As an advocate for equality in women’s sports, Bertine started the social activism movement Le Tour Entier in an effort to bring parity to women’s professional road cycling, starting with the Tour de France. She and her team succeeded, and the women’s field was included in 2014 with the addition of La Course by Tour de France. 

Her award-winning documentary, HALF THE ROAD: The passion, pitfalls and power of women’s professional cycling gives a glimpse into the trials women face in this sport. In 2017, she founded and currently serves as CEO for Homestretch Foundation, a 501c3 which provides free housing to female professional athletes struggling with the gender pay gap. 

A native of Bronxville, NY she lives in Tucson, AZ. She holds a BA from Colgate University and an MFA from the University of Arizona. 

ABOUT THE BOOK

STAND: A memoir on activism. A manual for progress. What really happens when we stand on the front lines of change 

In 2006, ESPN hired Kathryn Bertine as a columnist, putting her on a quest to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. After six months of trying just about every summer sport on the planet, road cycling became Kathryn’s chosen path for the remaining eighteen months of the assignment.  

Her Olympic assignment—So You Wanna Be an Olympian?—concluded without a berth to the Beijing Games. What was supposed to be the end of her athletic journey ended up yielding a new path: activism.  Bertine’s infatuation with road cycling, equal opportunity and gender equity was just beginning both on and off the bike. She had three goals: a) turn professional in bike racing b) change the patriarchal system and get women into the Tour de France c) find some inner peace with her private demons of worthlessness.

The odds were stacked against her. Cycling’s governing body (UCI) and the Tour de France’s antiquated rules and good ol’ boy network (ASO) had no intention of recognizing or including women in the male-dominated sport and ignored all her attempts at connecting. In 2012, Bertine signed her first professional contract in pro cycling at the age of 37. The following year, the female team manager warned Bertine to keep quiet about the inequity in women’s sports. “Stop talking about this equality crap. No one will listen to you. You are a nothing, you are a no one.” Bertine was benched for one year, suffering verbal and physical abuse from the manager and staff. Still, she kept standing up and speaking out, using journalism, filmmaking and Change.org petitions to effect change. 

Re-hired as senior editor of ESPNW in 2011, Bertine pitched a documentary film to ESPN on inequity in women’s sports. They turned it down, citing no one would watch a film on women’s pro cycling. Undeterred, she struck out on her own and made the film anyway. In 2014, Half The Road was picked up for international distribution, won three film festivals, and screened in sixteen countries. Six years later, she still receives royalty checks from a film ESPN said no one would watch. During the filmmaking journey, Bertine discovered the power of visionary teamwork and benevolent disruption. 

Forming the activism group Le Tour Entier (The Whole Tour) with three notable Olympic/World champions in 2013, Bertine lobbied the Tour de France for women’s inclusion. Nearly 100,000 people around the world signed their petition for equal opportunity, vaulting her Tour de France movement to one of Change.org’s most successful campaigns. The news went viral. A social awakening on equal opportunity was taking place. Finally, Bertine and Le Tour Entier made history. La Course by Tour de France debuted in July 2014—the first official instatement of women at the Tour’s 101-year history. Bertine effectively changed the mindsets of middle-aged men, million-dollar corporations, foreign rule-makers and victoriously challenged the fascinating boundaries of traditionalism. 

Far beyond the niche of cycling, the rest of the world paid attention to a bigger message of Bertine’s activism: Change is possible. Activism isn’t relegated to the wealthy, the famous, the politicians and superstars. We “regular people” have the power to make change happen, too.

But not without consequence. Bertine’s seven-year journey through advocacy and activism took her through the gamut of private struggles. Counted out, harassed, bullied, labeled a “no one,” abandoned, suffering depression, brokenness, divorce, and on the cusp of suicide, for many years Bertine was unable to answer the internal question of activism, Is the journey worth the struggleDoes what we do truly matter? It wasn’t until 2016 when a devastating bicycle crash and traumatic brain injury opened her mind—literally and figuratively–to the healing powers of activism, the beauty of inner demons and to finally answer the question: Yes. When it comes to equality, the journey is always worth the struggle. 

With unabashed honesty, irreverence, humor, vulnerability and authenticity, Bertine bares her soul and lays it all on the line. Activism isn’t pretty, but truth is beautiful. Stand blends memoir, manual and manifesto into an intimate journey of advocacy, unmasking what really happens when women/minorities stand up and fight for change. Bertine proves there aren’t any “no ones” in the world: When we rise and use our voice, we all have the power to move this world forward.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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