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