Kathryn Bertine's helping hand-me-down

Elite cyclist Kathryn Bertine is writing about her quest to qualify for the 2012 London Games. In Part 8 of her series, Bertine proves sometimes it takes a village to raise a cyclist.

There's an old proverb which states, "it takes a village to raise a Kathryn." The quote comes from the century-old Nigerian Igbo culture of Africa, and I'm truly amazed at its accuracy. I don't know how they predicted that a cyclist in modern day Arizona would indeed need an entire village-worth of help to foster her Olympic dreams. But they did. I do. Here's why.

On my return from my six-and-a-half week road-racing adventure in Belgium, I found out my time trial bike, the 2010 Specialized Transition, is illegal to race in my upcoming UCI time trial events.

Normal people might ask how a bicycle can possibly be rendered "illegal." It's not like the thing has a motor inside. The answer is both confusing and, to be honest, silly. But, just as other sports have refs and judges, the cycling world has a governing body that doles out rules and regulations about riders and their equipment. Apparently a two-inch piece of carbon fiber on the front of my particular time trial bike model is seen as an aerodynamic advantage. That must be why I won the world championships last year. Oh, wait. I didn't. I finished nearly last despite my aerodynamic prowess. True, I was suffering from the flu, but I was hoping those two-inch carbon fiber pieces would get me to the podium, since they're such an advantage and all.

The final verdict is this: I have the Pan American championships in two weeks and I don't have a legal bike to race. I'll be disqualified if I bring the one I have.

Now for the "village" part. After my husband and I frantically called the head of my cycling federation in St. Kitts and Nevis (a wonderful man named Winston Crooke) and told him I might not be able to race in Colombia at Pan Ams on May 6, Crooke frantically called friends and connections in search of a solution that might save me from having to by a new $6,000 time trial bike. (Don't ask about the cost of bikes. That's a whole other article).

While most elite riders have access to free bikes from team sponsorships or federation grants, neither St. Kitts and Nevis or my personal bank account allow for new, last-minute time trial bike purchases. My domestic team, Trisports Cycling, funds me with a (legal!) road bike, so luckily I'm all set for road races, but the time trial is a different element. Finding a time trial bike frame to borrow for the year was the only way to get myself legal. So Crooke called in the Canadian Mounties. Sort of. The village was quickly going global.

In the tiny town of Lansdowne, in the Canadian province of Ontario, a small upstart of a cycling company called Unovelo, which has a total of three employees, heard about my time trial troubles from Crooke. Scott Gerrie, the owner, said he had a model frame that just came out of the mold. It's unpainted. Not very fancy looking. But it's cutting edge technology ... and legal.

"I'll ship it to you Monday," Gerrie said.

"I'll take all the parts and components off your old bike," my husband, George, said.

"We'll put the new bike together for you," my local Tucson bike mechanic said.

"I'll see you at the Pan Am championships," Crooke said.

"I don't know who to thank first," I said.

"You know, the proverb is actually 'It takes a village to raise a child'" the Nigerian Igbo tribe in Africa said.

Child, cyclist, Kathryn, dreamer, hoper, or anyone whoever wants to do something with their lives -- the proverb holds the same meaning. No worthwhile goal is ever obtained alone. Some time, somewhere, somehow everyone has to ask for help and guidance.

I've always been told the time trial is an individual event, but that's just another irony of the sport. Next week, at the Pan Am championships in Colombia, there will be women rolling down the start ramp with $6,000-plus bikes, individual goals of glory and full team funding behind them. They're going to need those things, because I have an entire village behind me. We're feeling pretty unstoppable.

Related Content