Friday, October 23, 2009

Review - "Race Across The Sky"

Last night, with a bit of encouragement from SOC, the missus and I (and SOC and Mrs SOC) went and took in the flick "Race Across The Sky".

Now, since I'm not a hyper Lance fan, nor an avid mountain biker, and definitely not a partaker of any kind of a long race involving climbs, it would seem on the surface that this movie, one about Lance, a mountain bike race, and one that involves fourteen thousand feet of climbing, would not be my cup of tea.

And, in a sense, the race really isn't my cup of tea.

I mean, who am I kidding? 10,000 feet elevation at the start? A 3,000+ foot climb up to the halfway point? A long paved descent on knobby tires?

All these things scream "Not for SDC! Not for SDC!"

It's just like the Ironman, when I first saw the coverage of the Hawaiian classic. I couldn't swim 50 laps at the local pool fast enough to qualify for lifeguard training, I run maybe twice a year, and I hate time trialing. The Ironman, therefore, is not for me.

Yet I had a fascination with that race for a long time. It had less to do with the event, though, and hence the fascination. Honestly, if you look at it objectively, it's a pretty boring race if you look at the terrain. Okay, it's hot there, especially when the lava fields are flowing, but it's basically dead flat. No climbing to speak of, just roller type hills.

(I say this with respect to everyone that's done it because, frankly, I can't even ride that fast on a TT bike, forget about having to swim a couple miles before and then, after the bike, climbing off and looking forward to a marathon run.)

The participants made up the story.

And so it was with the move "Race Across The Sky."

It was all about the people, the town, the situation around the birth of the event, the situations surrounding some of the racers themselves.

Leadville was a mining town until they shut down the mines, putting 3200 people out of work in a town of 5000 (numbers from the race promoter).

Obviously this put a damper on some of the town's happenings. Ken, the promoter, started the event to put Leadville on the map.

As Lance pointed out after the flick, Ken has succeeded. With this movie out now, I imagine that the Leadville field will either swell or the chances of getting selected in the lottery will dwindle down to Powerball ratios.

I have to imagine that racers who succeed in getting into the Leadville 100 mountain bike race (1400 spots as opposed to the running !! race, limited to 500 runners) will be making treks up to the area to recon the course, especially since it's a one time deal.

See, if you don't make the feed station within 4 hours, you're pulled.

And if you don't make the finish by 12 hours, you're a DNF.

So it behooves those that gain entry to make that entry count.

Therefore there must be a reasonable number of people making the trek up to this town, maybe in pairs or fives, swelling the population by 0.1% (for a party of five) for a few days. They have to eat and sleep somewhere, and they'll need to buy supplies and such.

That's good for Leadville, the town.

The course makes Leadville interesting because, frankly, with mountain biking, whatever is out there, well, it's been done. Leadville is about as tough a course as you can get without necessarily risking people's lives. You know, like by having 20 foot drop offs and such. Nothing like that in the Leadville 100, just long steady climbs, long steady flat sections, and, um, more long steady climbs.

However, the people participating make the race what it is. It'd be boring to watch a race where, out of 1400 starters, about 20 are left in the first hour or so. What fun would it be to watch riders cross the line for five and a half hours?

Mountain biking offers less drafting help, due to its higher rolling resistances and lower speeds. Drafting helps, sure, but nothing like on a road bike.

Therefore, as Lance points out, Leadville becomes a very, very long time trial.

For diversions, you need to look at the folks that make up the race.

And let me tell you, the emotions, the elation, and the sorrow are real. I won't reveal too much, except that some of the support staff showed heart wrenching devastation when they realized that they rider, typically their spouse, wasn't going to make it.

On a lighter and somewhat ironic note, I found the pre-movie "talk show host" interesting.

(Btw, was it Richard Fries interviewing them? I thought it was but I may be wrong.)

You could see the riders off the bike, in a less familiar environment. The small-town, down-home Ken, the media-polished Lance, a somewhat stone-faced Dave, a grinning "aw shucks" Travis, and the young Matt Shriver who seemed to get less nervous in the post-flick talk versus the seemingly nerve wracking pre-flick talk.

They all had the telltale hunched backs of cyclists, all aching to get into that low, efficient position, even sitting on tall bar stools in the middle of the stage.

I thought the most interesting exchange came from the non-flick chat, the unscripted, unrehearsed, somewhat spontaneous talk between some of the main characters in the race.

In particular, Ken pointed out that "only Tour de France winners get automatic selection". Not only that, it seems that if a TdF winner enters the race, they automatically get second the first time.

See, Floyd Landis, in 2007, got second. So did Lance, in 2008.

Each time they got beaten by the last year's Leadville winner, in this case the same guy, Dave Wiens.

Then Lance cracked a comment, as the current winner of Leadville.

"You should invite Contador to Leadville in 2010!"

Or something like that.

I think he meant that if Contador showed up, then Lance would beat him, because Lance won in 2009. Meaning, I think the implication is that Lance would win and beat Contador if they both did Leadville in 2010.

I guess a side thing that Lance didn't really address is that this implies that Lance thinks Contador will win the 2010 Tour (since Leadville 2010 occurs after the 2010 Tour).

I thought that was kind of interesting, the implied assumption.

Because, from how the discussion went, if Lance won the Tour, he wouldn't win Leadville. Contador, on the other hand, wouldn't win Leadville because... he'd win the Tour?


1 comment:

YaniCan said...

I saw the screening too and enjoyed it a lot. like you said, the stories are what it's about, not the race. my favorite part was when Dave thanks the volunteers, you can tell he's a genuinely good guy.
I've never mountain biked in my life, but after seeing this, i'll be trying it tomorrow (or as close as i can get to mountain biking in Miami) and the leadville is definitely on my bucket list now.