Friday, March 21, 2014

Guest Post: The Big Picture - Half the Road

Our friend Christine T. from Richmond, VA returns with another guest post. This time, she reviews for us a recent documentary on the inequality that exists in the world of women's competitive cycling.

Image courtesy of the
Women's Cycling Association
In her debut film, pro cyclist Kathryn Bertine tells the story of the struggles women endure on and off their bikes. Her film presents interviews with top cyclists such as Kristin Armstrong (no relation to the chemically enhanced Lance Armstrong), Marianne Vos, and Chrissie Wellington, among others. Echoing their sentiments about the plight of women’s racing are the former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona and various exercise physiologists. Half the Road also takes a trip into the offices of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the governing body of sport cycling, to see what they’re doing to suppress or support women’s cycling.

Women hold up half the sky of equality and progression

After being asked by ESPN to reach for the gold at the 2008 Olympics, Bertine began learning about the challenges that keep more women from riding competitively. As she learned about Olympic cycling and women’s professional cycling, she realized that there was a story that needed to be told. From the history of women’s equality in sports to the present plight of women’s cycling, the film progresses from lesson to lesson.

"excessive number of stages"and "excessive individual stage distances" with "excessive climbing" for an "excessive duration." - UCI regarding the 1990 PowerBar International Women's Challenge bicycle race
The story then shifts gears and heads to the UCI offices to go toe to toe with cycling's governing body. If there’s an antagonist in this film or a face to associate with the resistance to elevate women’s cycling, it’s former UCI President Pat McQuaid and, to a somewhat lesser extent, current UCI President Brian Cookson. Their actions have dictated where women’s cycling is now and can change where women’s cycling can go. In this act there’s a quick-fire barrage of interviews with athletes, exercise physiologists, and doctors against the neigh sayers about the physical limitations of women in not just cycling sports, but all sports.

Want to see women compete in the Tour de France? Check out the Le Tour Entier
As a comical intermission, a short is interjected to encourage viewers to pick up the equality pen (any pen will do) and write the UCI. Throughout the film are examples of women who have shown themselves to compete at the same level as men and what supporting a women’s team can do for a sponsor. Finally, Bertine closes the film with what else can and needs to be done to progress the women’s peloton.

Sit up attentively

While the film is about supporting the full spectrum of women’s cycling, there’s definitely a greater focus on the traditional road races with just a few scenes go to addressing some other disciplines. The overall cinematography is good, but some of the interviews were clearly done earlier and were a bit rough. These few scenes do distract a bit from the story, but there are not too many to really bring down the film.


Music was donated from Brother Dege, Marla Guloien, and Cathy Rivers. Quite frankly, none of the music was memorable. On the upside, none of the music took away from the film either. However, the sound effects for censorship - cha ching - are definitely a comical and obvious poke at the disparity in money for men’s versus women’s cycling.

Overall, the film is worth checking out as it makes a compelling argument against the status quo that keeps women from competing at the same level as their male counterparts in cycling sports. The rather damning collection of interviews from all sides encourages viewers to get behind the movement to change things. Bertine and company are continuing to promote the film at various film festivals and are looking to do screenings at a theater near you. “Half the Road” is slated to be available on DVD in June. For more information, check out HalftheRoad.com.

Tags: cycling, documentary, Half the Road, Kathryn Bertine, movie review, professional sports, UCI