You know you have reached true bike “nerdom” when you start watching cycling movies (yes, they make them!). I actually had the belief that Race Across the Sky might sell out for it’s ONE NIGHT ONLY showing late last month. So, I found myself paying an online processing fee to secure my seat, which the many people who know my frugality would find surprising (It was a $1.50 and I am not sure what it was REALLY for, but I paid it!). The movie was 2-hours long…and I hung onto the edge of my seat for every second of it even though I already knew who won the race and how. Had I had a cowbell, I would have rung it.
Now, other movies are creeping into my DVD player, such as A Sunday in Hell which follows the 1976 Paris-Roubaix bicycle race. This race is a 166 mile course with a terrain in Northern France covering centuries old cobble stones. It does not take a genius to figure out that cobble stones and bicycles do not go well together but it DOES make for an interesting race—even 33-years later. So why would anyone watch a race from 1976 in 2009? Boredom might be one answer but not as likely for myself….instead it is about the excitement of the race.
Cycling in 1976 is an obviously far departure from cycling today. Nevermind, not a single cyclist is wearing a helmet in the race. Nevermind, their bikes are heavy heaps with what we would likely consider substandard set-ups today. Even the cyclists themselves look different, slightly more “husky” than the lean string bean types you see today. Of course, you cannot mention this movie without mentioning the fabulous wardrobe of all the riders including the wool team sweaters. Today they are considered “vintage” and likely to go for thousands of dollars on Ebay. In 1976, I think they were just considered hot and itchy.
Shot in a documentary style, the movie follows several riders including the infamous Eddy Merckx through their ride across castle dotted landscapes. As a rider, it really does captivate you to stare off into the scenery and imagine yourself there (trust me, I would price tickets now if I thought I could afford it). Meanwhile, the harsh portion of the race is like watching a train wreck of cyclists drop like dominos covered in muck, blood and bike grease. There is not a lot you can do with someone who is missing a piece of their forehead. They are not getting back on the bike.
The movie concludes in a gigantic shower room with all the cyclists washing off the ride while talking to reporters. As I have learned, nudity becomes something pretty normal in cycling as you are used to changing around your friends and random strangers in parks all over the country. However, I think I would have a problem completing an interview while trying to exfoliate half of the French countryside off of my legs. My only real complaint of the whole movie is if you are going to conclude your film in the shower room—at least give a girl something to blush about.