Former pro cyclist using AZ home to help female athletes

Posted: Updated:
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Now retired from professional cycling, Kathryn Bertine is working to eliminate the gender pay gap in sports. (Source: 3TV /CBS 5) Now retired from professional cycling, Kathryn Bertine is working to eliminate the gender pay gap in sports. (Source: 3TV /CBS 5)
Maja Stage Nielsen and Asa Lundstrom are from Europe. They came to Arizona to train. (Source: Homestretch Foundation via Facebook) Maja Stage Nielsen and Asa Lundstrom are from Europe. They came to Arizona to train. (Source: Homestretch Foundation via Facebook)
TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A former professional cyclist wants to shatter the glass ceiling in her sport, and it all starts with a house in Arizona.

“It's an interesting, quirky house that's just as original as the athletes, as the Homestretch concept, and it feels like home,” Kathryn Bertine said. “It's a really relaxing place.”

But the professional triathletes who call this quirky house home for the moment are not here to relax. They’re here to train.

It’s the perfect home base while they prepare for a grueling race comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a full marathon – also known as Ironman Hawaii, which is this weekend.

“We kind of need some heat to acclimatize,” Maja Stage Nielsen said.

She and Asa Lundstrom are from Europe. They came to Arizona to train, calling a quiet Tucson neighborhood their home away from home while they do so.

The home where they're staying is the center of the Homestretch Foundation, a Tucson-based nonprofit organization with a mission to level the playing field for women.

“We founded the Homestretch Foundation to make sure that no pro female cyclist and other pro athletes that [sic]  are struggling with a gender pay gap were caught in that quagmire,” Bertine said.

She is the home’s only permanent resident.

[RELATED: Lucky to be alive]

Now retired from professional cycling after a brutal accident during in Mexico in April 2016, she is working to eliminate the gender pay gap in sports. It’s something she has experienced first-hand.

“I usually had to work one or two part-time or even full-time jobs,” she said.

That’s not easy when your first gig takes at least 20 hours of your week.

“The majority of pro athletes strive to find work that's computer-based so they can sit down and put their feet up to recover,” she said.

According to the Homestretch Foundation's Facebook page, "the global gender pay gap is only 66 percent, women only make 2/3 of a man's salary."

Bertine's Homestretch Foundation gives pro cyclists a place to stay for free so they can focus on training.

The foundation brings in money by renting those rooms for three months of the year.

Nielsen, who is from Denmark, and Lundstrom, from Sweden, are paying to stay with Bertine, and paying it forward to those who will come after them.

“It’s almost like it's in the walls," Lundstrom said. "You see the pictures of the other athletes, you feel like a responsibility. You feel proud to be part of it and also very inspired."

We founded the Homestretch Foundation to make sure that no pro female cyclist and other pro athletes that are struggling with a gender pay gap were caught in that quagmire.

 “We've been really, really happily surprised at how quickly it's taken off," Bertine said.

The Homestretch Foundation will celebrate its first anniversary in November. This year, the Homestretch Foundation is hosting 22 athletes in five sports from seven countries. Together they have one goal -- equality.

The house is already booked for most of the professional cycling season, which starts in December.


Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.