Friday, November 21, 2008

Road to Paris - 27 Days with the US Postal Team

If you wish to be out front, then act as if you were behind - Lao-Tzu, 6th Century B.C.
In the winter I spend countless hours sweating it out in the bike room. Riding indoors sucks, there is just no way to sugar coat it. In order to help the subterranean time go by as fast as possible, a rider needs to have the tools of distraction. For me, it's a DVD player and a collection of the cycling world's greatest videos: a decade of Paris Roubaix and De Ronde, scattered Tours, the Vuelta and select Spring Classics. In addition to the races, I love the cycling documentaries and among my favorites are Stars and Water Carriers and, of course, the art house classic, A Sunday in Hell. In the last 10 years, a new batch of documentaries has emerged, providing a close look at the inner-sanctum of the PRO team and delivering unrestricted access to the intenal workings. I am a complete and utter sucker for this perspective.

One of the finest examples of this genre is Road to Paris (RTP). In 2001, cameras followed LA and the Postal team in their preparation for the 2001 Tour, exposing the diligence and dedication the team put into man and machine in pursuit of a third Tour win. The film opens with a view of LA, slowly churning up a narrow mountain pass, emerging from a cold mist; there are no spectators, no fans, no helicopters, no team mates, and no competitors. LA is dressed in typical spring training gear, tights, booties, a wind jacket, and a cycling cap. As LA rolls closer to the camera, subtitles provide the context, first they read: Reconnaissance Training, The Alps, France, they fade out and then fade in to reveal the post script: Hour 4. To a viewer who knows nothing about LA, this opening sequence embodies the hardman mentality that propelled LA to seven Tour wins.

But RTP is not completely LA-centric, the filmmakers follow the Classics Squad through their spring campaign, culminating in one of the wettest editions of Paris Roubaix since 1994. The lead-up to Roubaix focuses on Circuit de la Sarthe and the early season chaos that is so common with all teams. The 2001 spring was bitter-sweet for hardman Georgie Hincapie, first winning Ghent-Welvegem by a tire's width and then placing just off the podium in Paris Roubaix by the Domo boys, the strength of Domo was so overwhelming it forced the creation of a new term in cycling, the verb "Domoed". As in "I got my ass kicked, I got Domoed".

The Roubaix sequence is a dirt-in your eye experience and done beautifully but my favorite scene in the film is the Amstel Gold segment where LA tests his legs and battles Dekker for the title. The film transitions between "on the course" with LA and "in the team car" with Yoo-han. (The accompanying Phil Liggett commentary may be some of the best I've ever heard.)


The camera work and the editing is incredible, the music is original, and both come together to provide a sensoral experience that does justice to the sport we love. Clearly, the filmmakers are cyclists and their vision is spot on, capturing the pain, glory, confusion, determination, and sheer lack of glamour that is the PRO scene.

"you have to make sure that everything is proper and nice, and also you have a heart for the sport." - Freddy Viaene

A Sunday in Hell is the bench mark for cycling films, a film that can appeal to even the non-cyclists. The haunting sound track and the epic battle among the sport's greatest classic riders have earned this film a place in cycling history.

I honestly feel RTP is worthy of a spot aside A Sunday in Hell. In 2001, this film was as close to all-access as you can get, and spawned shows like Chasing Lance on Discovery and OLN's Lance Chronicles. If you enjoyed these shows, then this film is a must. In addition to the film, the RTP disk also includes roughly an hour of additional footage complete with Lance's two cents on training with power and a classic Merckx-like scene where LA measures and measures and measures his machine to insure it's set-up is to his liking.

Winter is coming and once the cross season is over it will be trainer time. Do yourself a favor and add RTP to your winter rotation, because...

"When the soup is good, all is good" - LA

21 comments:

Blair said...

RF--Great blog. I linked to it from my friend(Josh Boggs). RTP and A Sunday in Hell are "must haves". I enjoy the older classics. Watching the Lion of Flanders and PVP in battle--great stuff! I will go watch Roubaix one day.
We are riding in 100 degree weather..so it will be a while--before DVD's/embrocation are used.

Cheers--

Radio Freddy said...

Blair - Thanks for reading, and thank Boggs for the referral. Stay cool and be ready, embro/indoor season is just around the proverbial corner. - RF

Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary as always. RF, you may have already seen this but here it is anyway...

http://youtube.com/watch?v=bErQJ01-Uc8

looks like another possible classic. Keep it up!

Radio Freddy said...

anon - It looks to be a great film. I love the behind the scenes look at Roubaix. check out a post from lat year Roubaix Part I

caw said...

Yeah this is one of my fav's. If anyone knows where to get the music they used do tell. I have this video on my ipod and watch it all the time now.

Another great one is the German "hell on wheels". I was blown away at the beautiful cinematography. In an age of shaky hand held cameras and bad edits this film is a must just for the shear beauty of it. Get a copy now.

Any thoughts on "overcoming"?

Colin Griffiths said...

That's it then, I'm just off to buy a cheap DVD player for the garage!

Radio Freddy said...

caw - Overcoming is an interesting film. There is a great deal of CSC insight but all in all the film has a weird cadence to it. At times I have trouble following the story line. The opening sequence is great and the music is nicely paired to the action. There are some great scenes in the film, my favorite is Carlos' training in the alps where Riis is driving alongside Carlos and receiving SRM telemetry from Carlos' machine. So damn PRO. Check it out if you have not. Cycling vids are like pizza, even when it is bad it is still pretty good.

How did you get RTP on the ipod? - RF

caw said...

Hey Freddy, Just google "ipod video converter" There are a ton of programs out there that will do it. I payed for the one by cucusoft but I bet if you search you could find a free one. Arestube is another program that will download youtube vids and convert them to ipod all at once, and its free.

BTW, does anyone know if there is video of the paris roubaix that Andre Tshmil won?

Mike said...

gawd, it's horrible isn't it thinking ahead to winter. I must get some of those DVDs, I only have the CSC and T-mobile ones at the mo. I hate my trainer and prefer to be outside no matter what the weather... but it gets hard sometimes.
Great blog, cheers!

Erik said...

Freddy,
I totally agree on the cycling documentary thing. Some of my favorite movies. I had never heard of Chasing Lance but found the whole thing on youtube. I posted it on erikspeaks.blogspot.com. Enjoy!
Erik

Anonymous said...

Thijs Van Nice....

Hup Hup.

Anonymous said...

I got the RTP video several years ago from a buddy at Nike....and just happened to watch it a few days ago while cycling in the garage...yes, it is inspiring, I found the Paris Roubaix segment and the Amstel Gold finale to be equally riveting. Thanks for drawing attention to this great "training" video. Also have to second the opinion on "Hells on Wheels", following Team Telekom around for a TdF....knowing what we know about the drugs on that team, the video is even more interesting....i.e. the tattoos on everyone's upper arms

Tim said...

All of RTP is on youtube

Michael said...

road to paris is good even for something somewhat modern. I love the 70's era, my favorite. Its great there are 3 good films from that era, sure wish there coulda been more but what can you do?

Angelo R. said...

On top of these films, I will also spin to Breaking Away and sometimes Quicksilver.

lg0naim said...

I believe Hollentour is just as equal as RTP, due to the inside view of a cyclist's life on the road in more than one way :)

lifeinsiliconvalley said...

Road to Roubaix is good. It isn't quite as epic as the previews would lead you to believe, but it is still VERY good. The previews just gave me goose bumps as i watched it over and over, i just don't think its possible to keep that up for the entire length of the film. Not so sure its great to watch on the trainer though as it is done in a distinctly documentary style that can feel a little slow at time. It is a great cycling film though.

I've almost ordered RTP several times, but never actually gone through with it. This entry pretty much seals the deal. Thanks, BKW.

Nathan DeYoung said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sailor42 said...

I wish netflicks would add RPT to there selection. I bet more people would be able to watch it if it were more widely available

Esteban said...

Yeah, RTP is great... but what about Hincapie... 4 to 1 ... how many flats did the guy have coming into the final 20k? Insane. What a fighter and one of my favorite riders of all time. Here is to a Roubaix win in 2009 to Big George! Kill it bro.

Arcade said...

Caw, if you mean RTR, the music was done by Paul O'Brien www.paulobrienmusic.com I'm trying to find it in iTunes right now!