Monday, January 14, 2008

Review - The Quest 2

I got the chance to watch this DVD recently. I guess it helped that I bought it too! The DVD is about Saunier-Duval's race in the 2006 Tour de France, the "Floyd" one. If you can recall some of the sub-races in that event, there was a new kid, David de la Fuente, who impressed with his gutsy ride to attempt to take and hold the Polka Dot jersey. Ultimately he fails but he puts up a fierce fight.

Anyway, I went away from watching it with mixed feelings and I wanted to share them with everyone out there.

The first bit of the DVD introduces the team to the viewer, the director, the sponsor, and some of the racers. The best character (he's for real) is the "director on the road" who has an uncanny resemblence to Pig Vomit in the Howard Stern movie. More on him later.

The team director is Mauro Gianetti. He seems like a likeable enough guy, and he fits in one of the two "ex-pro" profiles. The first is the ex-pro that gets heavy. The second is the ex-pro that looks like he could get on a bike and pound anyone below a ProTour team racer right into the ground.

Gianetti fits the second profile. His shaven head, his gaunt cheekbones, and his piercing eyes reminded me of the Eagle in the Muppets.

Now one of the things I have to remember is that Gianetti had had some kind of massive organ failure following a suspected doping attempt. Although nothing came of it, I imagine that "almost dying" is enough of a penalty to deter one from trying the same thing again.

Reading about this (back when it happened) reminded me of a teammate of mine who passed out before a state road race. It ended up he'd downed a bunch of amphetamines and his body rebelled and shut down. Not really smart, but the upside is that he probably never tried it again.

Anyway, based on that experience, Gianetti should either be totally against doping or extremely careful with doping. In other words I can't imagine he'd tolerate his own racers doing any kind of dope independently. It would be either team-driven or strictly forbidden.

Looking at other evidence, like some of his racers' inability to recover for the end of a Grand Tour or their slightly sub-par performance, I suspect that it is the former, that he is against doping. His racers seem tired and weary towards the end of the races. They simply can't recover like some of their competitors, a few who have been suspended for doping.

Anyway, his past colors everything he says and does. As my mom once said to me, it takes years to build trust but only one thing to destroy it.

So that is the director.

The DVD itself is very sparse, just the actual movie (or documentary if you will), no extras, no deleted scenes, no outtakes. I was disappointed since such a film, using footage from both fixed and hand held cameras from inside the team car, could have a lot of interesting footage.

I found most fascinating the dialogue on the radio and in person between the on-road director and his riders. A warning - those who are not comfortable with swear words, either in some European language or in English print, should avoid some of the scenes here. His colorful comments when things go wrong is, well, beyond anything I could think of saying.

Another interesting topic was that of the water carriers. Everyone sees the team leaders duking it out on the last couple mountains of the day, but to get there they need an extensive support network of domestiques, team cars, and support staff.

Landis's epic and controversial break in Stage 17 of the same race was noted for the number of bottles he used, something like 70 or so. Multiply that number by, say, 5 or 6 racers still in the field and you get an idea of just how many bottles a team leader would want to have handed up to him. Realistically the number is a lot less, but the bits on the riders picking up bottles makes you realize that it's a lot of work to keep the team hydrated.

What these bits covering the water carriers does in particular is make me wonder how a team can have almost all of its guys at the front of the field after a couple climbs. It seems impossible to make the efforts the domestiques make and still have enough gas to push the pace at the last climb or two.

Finally, although my 8 hour 2006 Tour DVD skips it, apparently there was quite a bit of controversy over de la Fuente's Polka Dot jersey hold at the beginning of the race (taken during a flatter stage). A French rider and him were tugging and pulling on each other and the commisars had actually contemplated tossing both out of the Tour. Ultimately the results stood and allowed de la Fuente to return to the Polka Dot jersey and make a name for himself. The initial controversy is caught on tape and there are some scenes which virtually any racer (or competitor in any sport) will relate to - the "off the field" pushing and shoving, name calling, and other somewhat unprofessional things. I found this quite fascinating as the pro cycling world is so small, these kinds of incidents really sit in people's minds when they think about who to hire for next year.

When I bought the DVD I wasn't sure what to expect. I own the "Road To Hell" DVD, the one that follows Telekom (when Ullrich was on Bianchi), and in particular Rolf Aldag and Eric Zabel. I was satisfied with that one with its mix of racing, team car cams, and some of the excellent visuals (the closing scene struck me in particular).

However, "The Quest 2" was disappointing in comparison. It's hard to mix the movie cams (in the car mainly) with race footage (lifted straight out of the 2006 Tour DVD) and still make it seem like a coherent flick. The problem is that there is very little actual racing coverage. For example, de la Fuente goes off the front while in the Polka Dot jersey later in the race, eventually blowing up and dropping back. It would be interesting to hear the director at the time, or his thoughts afterwards, but you only get the generic "I was fighting to keep the jersey" type remarks.

For me, the director in the car saves the flick for me. His handling of the dirty sprint, water bottle hand ups, and the swearing when things go wrong entertained me. Without him there would have been no movie.

Even as a cyclist $25 seems a bit steep for this shorter DVD with no extra footage. $15 and I would buy it without hesitation. Last night the missus and I decided to download an iTunes movie - and we decided that $15 was "not worth it" if we got a movie with no extras. So we downloaded an older $10 movie. "The Quest 2" is an entertaining movie but at a $10-15 level, not a $25.

1 comment:

josh said...

aki -

check out a film called Overcoming. It follows CSC in the 04 or 05 tour (basso's first year with the team, he is third...the year julich breaks his wrist). It covers the important bits of the race, but mostly is a lot of behind the scenes type stuff looking at the team at meals, training camps, etc. Lots of in team car stuff as well. Plus it comes with a ton of extra scenes and such w/ the mechanics, etc.