[The film "Bicycle Dreams" will be presented next Thursday (March 14, 2013) at 7 p.m. at the Harvard Exit Theater at 807 East Roy Street in Seattle. The showing is presented by the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. See details here for discount advance tickets.
If you're unfamiliar with it, here's a story I did in 2009 about the film. By the way, Dani Wyss won the race in 2009, but Jure Robic won the contest the following year. Tragically, he died in September 2010 in a collision with a car during a training ride.]
June 23, 2009 — Endurance cycling junkies no doubt are enjoying the contest between Jure Robic and Dani Wyss being played out this week as the Race Across America nears the finish line.
But the real action of RAAM takes place behind the scenes in the team vans and the riders’ own heads.
And that’s where filmmaker Stephen Auerbach takes viewers of his new documentary, “Bicycle Dreams.” [Trailer above.] It’s the story of the solo division competitors during the RAAM in 2005, one of the most tragic years since the race began in 1982.
Auerbach and his film crew got unprecedented access to the cyclists and the crews as they rode and drove night and day for some 3,000 miles from San Diego to Atlantic City.
In interviews and candid footage, we watch the cyclists battle their own physical and mental obstacles as they face the race’s three demons — exhaustion, dehydration and hallucination.
We also are treated to occasional commentary by former riders and endurance coaches who explain why these cyclists take the challenge and how their suffering can help them spiritually.
Of course Robic is in the race. It’s 2005 and he’s defending his first championship from 2004. But the taciturn Slovenian reveals very little. In one telling interview, though, he explains that he takes on RAAM “to show people I can do the things they never thought I could do.”
One of his main challengers is countryman Marko Baloh, who had dropped out of a previous RAAM when doctors in West Virginia discovered a potentially fatal blood clot moving around his lungs. Baloh faces more serious health issues in the 2005 RAAM, to the shock and amazement of crew members.
While Baloh faces physical breakdowns, Frenchman Patrick Autissier faces mental challenges, especially as news of that year’s RAAM tragedy reaches him.
Interestingly, all three set off to participate in 2009 RAAM. Robic is leading, Baloh is still hammering away a few places back, but Autissier has dropped out.
The tragedy that year was the death of Dr. Bob Breedlove, a 6-time RAAM veteran from Iowa whose mantra was, “It’s another day in paradise.” He died on the course in Colorado.
We witness the reactions of one crew when they find out about his death, and overhear the discussions of several teams trying to decide the best time to pass the information along to their riders.
The documentary progresses day-by-day. As time rolls on, you can see situations getting more desparate for many riders. They’re not thinking about winning, just surviving to the finish line. We get to understand their fears and self-doubts as their bodies go beyond exhaustion and they pedal ahead on only frayed nerves.
The film isn’t doom and gloom, though. It celebrates the human spirit and examines how far some people go to succeed at the world’s most grueling race.
And there’s always wonderful cut scenes to the beautiful scenery they pass as they head cross-country. We occasionally see their exalted expressions as they reach the summit of a pass.
Where to buy
“Bicycle Dreams” would be an excellent addition to the home film library of any bicycle enthusiast, especially those who enjoy long-distance and endurance bicycling. It’s also good for anyone who is intrigued by people who push the edge of the envelope.
You can buy “Bicycle Dreams” at Auerbach’s website.