Friday, October 23, 2009

Race Across The Sky

A week or two ago, someone in the BBTC email list mentioned a documentary about the Leadville 100 mountain bike race - a one night showing in selected theaters across the U.S. I read plenty of bike related fluff, in print and online, but this was news to me. I clicked on the link and purchased two tickets for the Redmond, Washington location - one for me and the another for son Ian.

In case you live in a cave or know nothing about mountain biking, the Leadville 100 is a well known race in mountain biking circles. Takes place in Leadville, Colorado with an out and back course - 100 miles, lots of climbing, all at altitude. Dave Wiens, ex mountain bike pro, 45 years old and all around nice guy, owns this race - 6 time winner of the event - including beating Floyd Landis in 2007 and somebody named Lance Armstrong in 2008. Reading about nice dude Dave hammering two Tour de France champions was good, clean fun. That ended this year when Lance came back determined to win and set a new course record.

Well, last night was the gig and we attended as planned. Lucky we got there a little early - place was packed. Lots of bike nuts here in the Seattle area, collectively assembled to view Race Across The Sky. A beautiful sight indeed.

Before the movie, a featured rap session with Lance, Dave, Matt Shriver and Travis Brown - hired Trek guns for the race, Ken Chlouber - colorful character behind the Leadville 100, and a moderator - who I can't remember the name of. Interesting and informal questions and chatting about the race. Lance mentioned the Leadville 100 is the reason why he came out of retirement. After racing in 2008, realized how much fun racing is - and since Dave beat him - realized you don't have to win everything. This launched his comeback and return to the Tour as well. Cool insight into the mind of Lance.

With that, the movie begins and away it goes. I enjoyed the hell out of it. Bob Roll narrates the action and does a superb job as usual. Being a mountain bike race, it's more about the average Joe and Jane racers hitting the course and testing themselves. Film does a good job balancing the story of the "stars" and the regular racer stories. Some well done race video action - from following motorcycle and helicopter. Cross country mountain bike racing doesn't get the media attention it deserves and this documentary helps put it out there. Sometimes the music was a tad over dramatic - but still good. Being old school XC geek, I dug the whole thing. Man, that area of Colorado is spectacular scenery wise.

As you probably know by now, Lance did win and crushed the course record. Dave Wiens finished 10 minutes back in second place, but is far from being the "loser". I've read about Dave numerous times, but the film shows you what he seems to be - an incredibly down to earth, normal, super nice guy. You can see he truly loves this event and the people surrounding the race love him. Inspiring stuff. Plus, racing at this level at 45 years old is amazing.

A few other highlights of the film include the full on hammer session at the beginning of the race - the Lance factor and a bit of road race strategy. A lot was made of this in the bicycle media as somehow not being fair, since "teammates" were hired to help Lance. While this may be true to an extent, it is fair, and Dave Wiens later said it didn't really affect the outcome. Lance won fair and square. Check out Dave's article in the latest issue of Mountain Flyer for an example.

Watching Lance screw up a flat tire fix a few miles from the finish was amusing. Where's the team car? Sorry, this ain't the Tour. Lance powered 7 miles to the finish on a flat rear tire, the ending to a 60 mile solo breakaway. Before the flat, the shots of Lance powering on his own - he was styling on the black and white Trek Fuel, with matching black and white Mellow Johnny's jersey. The dude is a rock star.

Other interesting scenes are all the "normal" racers suffering through the race - up the climbs, through the rain and hail. Dave Wiens thanking the course support people at the turn around - a class act. Watching Ken Chlouber stopping racers from continuing after they missed the 4 hour cut off point mid-course. Emotional stuff.

After the film, back to the rap session with Lance and the others. Lance making fun of himself with the inability to fix his own flat. He comes across as relaxed and funny - very different from the Tour related quick video interviews you see during the Tour coverage. Very cool. Still, my hero out of all this is Dave Wiens - you just can't help but to like the guy.

Anyway, I'm not spilling all the details - watch it for yourself when you can - on DVD or the encore showing, which is scheduled for November 12th. If you're any kind of mountain bike or Lance fan - you'll be glad you did.

On the way home, 10 year old son Ian said he enjoyed it as well. "It makes me want to race my mountain bike" - his final comment about the movie.

Yeah - me too.


  1. Excellent review. Jennie and I really enjoyed it too--thanks for the heads-up about it. Pretty amazing that they managed to pull the film together and do such a good job in the short amount of time since the race happened.
    I can report that the Pacific Place theater in Downtown Seattle was packed, and I think they were using two of their large auditoriums. Glad we got there plenty early. However, the only rap session we saw was the one *after* the movie played. Maybe there was a problem with the feed in our theater, 'cos it started with what appeared to be the last few seconds of a pre-movie rap and then the film immediately began.

  2. Great write-up! I have a shorter post on my site. But I have a prediction on what is to come to racing. The theater north of Richmond VA. that I saw the movie was sold out. Matter of fact I think it was the only movie playing that night.

  3. Thanks for the nice words concerning my post. It's cool knowing someone reads what I put out there.

    Interesting that all theaters mentioned were packed. I did read some online reviews where nothing was shown due to technical problems - they saw nothing. I'm guessing the Seattle showing sorted it out before the film itself started.

    I think what we witnessed was the direct result of the "Lance Factor". Gotta give him credit for jump starting anything cycling related - especially here in the U.S.

    Go Lance.

  4. OK, not only did I miss the initial showing, I also missed the "encore". If you see another, or get yourself a copy of the DVD, let me know.