just the other day, i dragged myself out of a comfortable bed at the ungodly hour of 07:30am, got dressed and staggered down to the kitchen to make breakfast. after shaking muesli into a bowl, and adding milk, i put the cereal back in the fridge and the soya milk into the cupboard: it should have been the other way round. i said it was tiredness, mrs washingmachinepost said i was losing my marbles; unfortunately, i think we may both have been right. but should you wish to watch the extremes of both symptoms displayed on and off the bike, this is the movie for you. director stephen auerbach followed the 2005 race across america in an attempt to understand those partaking in the event, a fascinating view of human grit and tenacity.
having ridden the 100 miles of the ride of the falling rain on sunday, i know how tired i was as i headed for bed at night, but at least the colnago was safely tucked up in the bikeshed as i was about to achieve the same upstairs. those riding, in this case, the 3,051 miles from san diego to atlantic city, didn't even have the luxury of a good night's shuteye to look forward to. the winner apparently rode for forty hours without any sleep at all.
you may well wonder what this has to do with cycling at all: surely this is simply an endurance event in which bicycles are the innocent bystanders. it would be nice to think so, since those of us comfortably obsessed with cycling will look at the race across america and throw our trackmitted hands in the air. but i defy you to watch this movie without thinking, as we all did when bradley rode up the ventoux: i'm sure i could do that. unfortunately, reality doesn't believe us.
having caught up with a rider during the latter stages of rotfr, i enquired after his well-being, to which he replied that he was effectively running on empty. pointing out that there was no necessity to cover all 100 miles, he stated that having travelled over for the ride, there was no way he wasn't completing the distance.
so there's your answer. hardly any of us would actually take part in the race across america, but while most would view it as lunacy, we're all guilty of riding just a few more kilometres despite gallons of lactic acid in the legs, no water left in the bottle and the second part of that energy bar falling out the wrapper when the road surface changed. and probably because of this, despite watching the hardship encountered even within the first couple of days by many of the competitors, the film draws you in bit by exhausting bit until you're riding along with them as that missing member of the support crew.
what i hadn't realised is that there are time points all across america, every one of which has to be reached within a percentage of the time being set by the leader. thus, while it may be enough for many simply to take part, it's not possible to rein back and complete the distance in their own sweet time. with the main obstacle to finishing being mental rather than physical, it comes down to the support teams to coax and cajole their riders to increase the pace, to sleep when necessary, and to accept the vitriol that the semi-deranged minds fire in their direction. so that everyone is still friends at the end.
everyone in this running of the race has their own agenda and reasons for taking part, probably just the same as in every year since 1982, and likely on a deeper scale, the same reasons as you and i manage that extra espresso. or likely not. stephen auerbach has captured the very heart of the race, resisting the desire to make just another documentary: there's not a chance this could be split into episodes and shown on the discovery channel over the course of a few weeks - it's far too engrossing for that. generally, reviewing movies involves having pen and paper sitting nearby to make notes; i was too involved to write anything. i can't say that i understand why anyone would actually want to put themselves through such purgatory on a bicycle, but on the other hand, maybe i do. it's a very strange world out there, but for once, lance may be right: sometimes it really isn't about the bike.
bicycle dreams is available on ntsc dvd (all regions) direct from the usa for $19.99 (£12) + postage: bicycle dreams movie
in 2010, paul molyneux and three colleagues will take part in the race across america team event, riding six hours on, six hours off, and 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off over the six hours; only one rider on the road at any given time. they are riding to raise funds for prostate cancer research under the banner sharp4prostate with aid from sharp electronics uk. the eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that sharp4prostate are one of the new sponsors to add their logo to the rapha condor jerseys, and paul will appear on cycling.tv's innertube couch on friday 7th august, talking about raam, prostate and rapha
photos by chris milliman
posted on thursday 6 august 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................