“I would love for people to copy our initiative for equality” states Kathryn Bertine, as she fills me in on the Homestretch Foundation. So let’s dig in and examine what Bertine is doing with this organization and why it is a necessary catalyst in the movement for equality among professional cyclists.
As stated on their website, the Homestretch Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides temporary housing and other resources to professional or elite athletes—primarily female athletes—who face financial and economic discrepancies. At the center of these efforts is a 3,000 square foot home in Tucson, Arizona with eight beds, five bathrooms, and beautiful outdoor spaces. Now in its second year, the foundation has served over thirty athletes. The house opens its doors December through May and hosts up to eight individuals, lovingly referred to as “Stretchies.” All five cycling disciplines – track, road, cyclocross, mountain, and triathlon – have been represented by the athletes who have applied to the Homestretch Foundation. The individuals who are chosen may stay anywhere from one to six months at a time. The Homestretch Foundation’s twitter feed is full of images where the athletes are cooking and enjoying meals together, training in the breathtaking area around Tucson, and supporting each other on the racing scene. Any athlete who is familiar with the comradery established during training understands how an environment like this impacts the athletes and the cycling community well beyond the time spent training there. Opportunities like what the Homestretch Foundation is providing build on trusted relationships and continue to create additional opportunities or ventures down the road.
The Homestretch house closes down for July and August but is available for rent September through November. In 2017, they were remarkably successful at filling the house during the later summer and fall months as a group of professional triathletes seized the opportunity to get heat acclimation training in for Kona and a developmental track cycling team from Canada also utilized the space. Renting the Homestretch in the off-season helps fund the 501(c)3 nonprofit for the six-month athlete training season.
Why is the Homestretch Foundation necessary? In September of last year the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), which serves as the world governing body for competitive cycling, announced an increase in minimum salary for men, €38,115 for WorldTour teams and €30,885 for Professional Continental teams. What is the minimum salary for women? Zero. There isn’t a required base salary for women. A survey conducted in 2013, then again in 2018 shows 50 percent of professional women earn $11,800 or less per year and 17 percent get no salary at all.
Fighting the income inequality and empowering others to have a voice in the discussion is a main focus of the Homestretch Foundation. Bertine explained that income is the main platform but it goes further, and she went on to add, “If women aren’t paid equally, then they aren’t treated equally.” The Homestretch Foundation is the first of its kind in the U.S. cycling scene but it is only one recent project of Bertine’s in the fight for equality in women’s cycling. In 2014, Bertine worked with other females pros to lobby the UCI and ASO (organizer of the Tour de France), to establish equality at the Tour de France. Her efforts led to the introduction of La Course by Tour de France, a one-day race for women held in conjunction with the Tour. That same year she released a documentary that she wrote and directed, HALF THE ROAD: The passion, pitfalls & power of women’s professional cycling. To gain a greater understanding of Bertine’s activism and accomplishments, visit her website at kathrynbertine.com or read this honest and touching story from bicycling.com. Both sources will give you a sense of the amazing strength and willpower that she brings to the Homestretch Foundation.
As a dual citizen of the U.S. and the island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Bertine has added an island cycling tour to the Homestretch Foundation’s list of events. She will personally serve as tour guide for those who want to explore her beautiful and peaceful adopted nation on two wheels, where participants will be welcome to go at their own pace. The 2019 Nevis-Homestretch Cycling Tourcamp will be held February 25th through March 3rd and proceeds from the tour directly benefit the Homestretch Foundation and the cyclists that it serves.
In addition to those who can attend the tour or make a direct contribution to the foundation, Bertine believes that everyone who wants to see a positive change in the sport can make a difference. “I encourage all cyclists to speak their mind, to find areas of inequality that resonate the most with them, and then apply direct pressure to change.”