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Pittsburgh bike race documentary premieres at a film festival about female adventure athletes

A new documentary tells a story of making more room for women in Pittsburgh’s outdoor-sports scene.

Filmmaker Danielle DiVito-Gerson’s “A Bitch of a Race” profiles Frigid Bitch, an annual alleycat-style race created by cyclist Anna-Lena Kempen. Nearly 200 signed up this year for the February ride for women, trans and nonbinary riders.

The 16-minute film gets its world premiere Friday, Aug. 12, as a special Pittsburgh addition to the No Man’s Land film festival, a touring showcase that highlights women in adventure sports like surfing, motor-biking, rock-climbing.

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The festival, in turn, is part of Venture Outdoors’ weekend-long Big Day Aht, which also includes opportunities to participate in everything from kayaking to nature hikes.

In the often male-dominated world of adventure sports, “We wanted to bring in a festival that focused more on different individuals that you don’t typically see in some of these outdoor adventure films,” said Venture Outdoors president and CEO Valerie Beichner.

Filmmaker DiVito-Gerson — whose specialties include outdoors films — first learned of Frigid Bitch last year as a participant. She quickly decided it was good fodder for a documentary.

“I just realized this is an amazing and important race and community, and the people are amazing, the racers are awesome,” she said. “There’s a really good story to tell here.”

In “Bitch of a Race,” Kempen says she once came in third among women contestants in Pittsburgh’s iconic Dirty Dozen bike race, but at the afterparty, none of the other, overwhelmingly male, finishers talked to her.

Frigid Bitch is an alley-cat-style race, which means it has checkpoints to hit, but no set course.

Interview subjects in the film testify to the ride’s ethos of personal empowerment and the joy of cycling. The images back it up with a mix of smiling faces, muddy tires, and a parade of local scenery from the Smithfield Street Bridge, Arlington Avenue to Schenley Park’s Serpentine Drive. (Apparently, a fair amount of adult beverages are also consumed.)

For more details on the 2022 Frigid Bitch, see here.

The No Man’s Land screening is a drive- or bike-in, outdoors event. For more information about No Man’s Land, see here.

Big Day Aht also includes the long-running Wild & Scenic Film Festival on Saturday, Aug. 13. That’s also at the Carrie Blast Furnaces.

Corrected: August 11, 2022 at 11:10 AM EDT
This is a revised version of an earlier story about the film festival. The earlier version contained incorrect information about the origin and structure of the Frigid Bitch.
Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: bodriscoll@wesa.fm