"i'm trying to find the sensations of riding my bike quickly and riding my bike fast and riding my bike almost perfectly. to me that is the objective; to find that special spot where i'm riding a perfect race."
music is frequently touted as an international language, one that is understood across virtually all cultural and physical barriers irrespective of man-made boundaries. and while on the face of it, this may portend to be true, in practice there are some ghosts in the machine that may undermine the theory, such as it is.
for instance, there are far eastern cultures whose musical system involves micro-tones; we in the west have the black and white keys on our pianos, and it's darned difficult to play any note that may fall in between black and white. however, if music truly is international and cross border, should we not all be singing from the same hymn sheet? or at least from the same sheet music. withdrawing into my own cloistered world of drums and percussion, there are indian drummers who could run rings round any western proponent, yet have a whole lot more notes that inhabit their thrummy noises. thus, far from being universal, much of the world's music is palatable and comprehensible only to its indigenous population.
anyone for bhangra slipknot?
of course, having demolished the notion of a world music (no matter what peter gabriel says), apparently food is also an international language, followed by dancing, art and doubtless a number of other subjects that allegedly prosper due to their worldwide transparency. i think if i searched long and hard enough, there will be someone on record having stated that cycling too is an international language. the really disappointing factor in relation to this aversion, is that i can find no holes in the space/time continuum that would undermine this suggestion.
in fact, far from being undermined, the theory has been given legs by mr brian vernor, a film-maker of great repute, and a reputation that can only be enhanced by this release of the cyclocross meeting. the legs in question are those belonging to american cyclocross riders, adam mcgrath (van dessel), and the imposing barry wicks (kona). introductions made, visitations to a couple of usgp races feature mud, pedals, wheels and more mud. brian has cleverly avoided the trap of providing too much information to accompany his moving pictures; in fact, if truth be told, information is almost conspicuous by its absence. by concentrating entirely on the racing, the spectators, the helpers and that totally wrecked look after the finish (mcgrath effects to be more exhausted than wicks, but he is a few inches shorter) the viewer is drawn deeper and deeper into an encouraged reverie of cycling.
that special spot.
lest you infer that this is a modern variant on the silent movie, the soundtrack couldn't be more apt, featuring music by talkdemonic, roots of orchis, the kg and blktop project, music which could almost have been written for the movie. and while we're passing in this direction, tae won yu of the kg also designed the rather fetching dvd cover. not having previously encountered tae won yu, or his works, i enquired further of mr vernor;"
i can't say enough about him. amazing person, thoughtful, and he totally investigated the project and my motives for making it, before taking on the design job."
at this point, admiration for the man behind the camera grows exponentially. cyclocross is hard enough to race, given its one hour and a lap fomula, producing a 60 minute mad-dash for the line. but it crosses my mind that the filmist must not only inhabit the psyche of those racing, but have another part of the brain firmly concentrated on that of the movie's prospective audience. knowing the best places to site that camera, having to quite likely run from one corner to the next, safe in the knowledge that the editing suite will have seamless copy to fill its monitors has to be an acquired skill. one that not many have in quantities such as this.
but the twist in the tale brings us back to that international language inhabited by the bicycle; in this case, specifically cyclocross bicycles. for messrs mgrath and wicks depart their north american circuit and head far,far away to the land of the rising sun, there to participate not only in a very different culture, but in the occasional cyclocross race. their counterparts in mud and sand are keiichi tsujiura and yu takenouchi.
tsujiura is a most self-effacing rider, describing how, as japanese cross champion, he travelled to europe intent on participation and ultimately, decent results in the super-prestige series. he admits to his egotism in this respect, and how his downfall was completed by the race leader lapping him after only forty minutes. how the mighty are fallen. happily, all four riders appear not only to find much in common with each other, but are on a similar level when it comes to scrabbling about a japanese cyclocross race. it is unintentionally comical to see less than slim japanese officials wearing dark blue uci emblazoned overcoats.
officialdom is another international language.
brian vernor treats us to a visit with shigeru nakagawa, an elderly japanese framebuilder of some repute, one who deems himself inspired by ernesto colnago and ugo derosa, apparently as much for their specific colours as for their prowess with the brazing torch. nakagawa's bicycles are pink, one of which is raced by yu takenouchi. it's an intriguing visit not least because of the cliche that japanese framebuilders ony make keirin frames.
japan is not particularly similar to north america, and the cyclocross racing could be nowhere else but japan. however, the racing is undertaken at the same frenetic pace, with the same commitment and the same ultimate joy on the podium. an international language requiring fluency in neither north-american english nor japanese.
the immediate contrast of barry wicks silhouetted against a japanese sunset, which then cuts to the windscreen and dashboard of a car entering a grey and wet portland, oregon, across one and in sight of those other famous bridges across the willamette, is a contrast well made. portland, morally the cycling capital of north america and certainly a hotbed of cyclocross activity, is an apt choice to bring the viewer back to earth with a bang. umbrellas, puddles and rainjackets abound. and cowbells.
where brian vernor's pure sweet hell was cyclocross from the very inside; raw, rough and exciting, the cyclocross meeting is an art movie with every last ounce of pretension removed. your devotion to cyclocross is encouraged but not demanded, and the film works so well on so many levels; it is documentary, it is entertainment, it is colour and movement.
it's a singular triumph of film-making that transcends any boundaries you may wish to impose. after this, you will understand.
the cyclocross meeting was premiered in the uk on saturday 16th october at the bicycle film festival held in london's barbican centre. it can be purchased in north america from cyclocrossworld.com. if you'd like to order a copy in the uk, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and he'll be happy to help.
posted wednesday 20 october 2010..........................................................................................................................................................................................................