Bertine vows to keep fighting after UCI points loss hampers Olympic push
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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bertine vows to keep fighting after UCI points loss hampers Olympic push

by Shane Stokes at 4:54 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Olympics
St. Kitts and Nevis rider docked points due to federation delay

Kathryn BertineOlympic aspirant Kathryn Bertine has said she is determined to bounce back from a recent UCI ruling that the world ranking points she earned last year would be scrapped.

The St. Kitts and Nevis rider took her third straight time trial and road race national championship last summer, clocking up a total of thirteen points. She also took what she thought would be eight UCI points at a race in Venezuela, with the combined total putting her 125th in the world, close to the top 100 places she’d need to secure Olympic qualification in May.

However the points from each of those races would ultimately count for naught. The UCI took away the Venezuelan result as it ruled that not enough international teams had competed there; as for the national championship points, they were scrapped because Bertine’s national federation didn’t send the results in quickly enough.

Although she doesn’t work for her national federation and therefore wasn’t responsible for their error, her push for qualification for the London games has been threatened by the loss of points.

“I feel this is just a sad case of miscommunication,” she told VeloNation. “Our federation in St. Kitts and Nevis is small, and because we are new to cycling, our president and vice president don't get the same kind of assistance from the UCI that larger, wealthier nations do.

“My federation didn't deliberately send a late email, they just didn't know there was an immediate deadline. The results must be in 48 hours after national champs. Technically, yes, the federation made an error. But, the UCI could have a system in place that sends reminders to new nations, so they can learn the ropes at first. Give them a one-time warning, even.

“To think that a rider can actually lose Olympic qualification points because of an email error in an office...that isn't right. If the UCI wants to punish a federation for being tardy, ok, that's one thing....but to take points from the athlete? That seems immoral.”

Bertine emphasises that the issue is not just about her, and that other riders with small federations have found themselves in the same position. She argues that the effects of such decisions extend beyond the athlete themselves.

“Within this personal points battle, there is something greater at stake. I'm not just trying to get myself to the Games. I'm trying to get my country a spot, so that the kids in our youth cycling federation can see that they can get somewhere in life--on a bike or off,” she said. “So this isn't just about the UCI taking points away, this is about taking away hope. This is bigger than me. But I'll do what I can to get points and hope back where they belong.”

She and the national officials have battled to have the points reinstated but there appears to be an uphill battle in that. “My federation appealed over email, at first. It was rejected,” she said. “Then, I tried to meet with Mr. McQuaid at Worlds, briefly, hoping to talk to him about the points situation. But it was Worlds, of course, and he was busy, so he had me speak with another member of the UCI. She in turn said there was nothing she could do about my points.”

Bertine told VeloNation that she planned to continue fighting the situation, on and off the bike. “At this point, I will try again and write a letter. Remember, even with the UCI points I won, I still need more to officially qualify for London. If, by May I get enough points that would qualify me in conjunction with my "lost points" then I will definitely take the matter up a notch. This is the Olympics, after all. I'm not giving up without a fight.”

Olympics Games has been a long term goal:

A former figure skater, cross country runner and rowers, Bertine decided in 2006 to try to qualify for the Beijing Olympics two years later. She took up cycling and knuckled down, progressing well. She fell short of that qualification goal, but refocused on 2012 and getting to the Games.

The ESPN journalist and editor has worked hard since then and showed good form last week when she placed second in the time trial at the Valley of the Sun stage race, and took fifth place overall. “Evelyn Stevens threw down a great time, so it is an honour to come in second to her. I've been working extremely hard, and it's paying off.”

She said that the frustration she felt at losing her points is something that has increased her focus and driven her on. “One can use disappointment to destroy or to motivate, so I've been concentrating on the latter. I like to think this TT shows I can get those points back. Or at the very least, I can kick back when kicked down.”

Points loss aside, Bertine’s drive for London is similar to that of many sportspeople for whom reaching the Olympic Games is a goal. In contrast to those who have been in the sport for many, many years and who are seen as big players in the fight for a medal, for her the race is the prize. Becoming an Olympian has in itself long been the target, and she has giving a lot of time, energy and money to achieving that.

“Because our federation is not financed through sponsorship, I pay for all my travel and race expenses and equipment….it comes out of my pocket,” she explained. “I try to get by on airline miles and I find homestays in foreign countries, and I do the best I can. I have a job in journalism, it's slightly more flexible for travel, but hardly easy. It's hard, but it is worth it.

“I've invested thousands of dollars. Just to get to that one race in Venezuela where they took my points away, that was minimum $2,000 for less than 4 days.”

Time is ticking down until the cutoff point for qualification. She knows that she must keep getting to different races and battling for points where she can. “I'm going to go to as many UCI races between now and May 31st as possible. I'm going to race my heart out, and hopefully regain what I've lost,” she said. “The hard part is getting into the races...I've emailed many race directors and searched for composite teams to let me in. Some have, some haven't.

“I'll go wherever I get in--Europe, South America, Asia. There are some race directors who know what I'm up against, and they've welcomed me in with open arms. I'm so grateful to them! Of course, my chances aren't easy. There are 200+ European riders who are happy to rip the legs off their competition, as I've experienced, and no one will make it easy for me to get points. But I respect that---that's how racing should be. I just want to be on the starting line, because when you get to that line, you have the same thing as everyone else: a chance.”


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