It’s summer. It’s hot. We know you’re inside. Here are our suggestions for what to watch when you want to think about cycling, but aren’t feeling like actually going outside for a ride.
Telling the story of 3-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and his rivalry with teammate – and five-time Tour de France winner – Bernard Hinault, Slaying the Badger captures the joy and hardship involved in a body-destroying sport like cycling. This riveting documentary looks at LeMond’s rise as the first serious American cyclist and his personal and professional triumphs. Remember, when it comes to American Tour de France winners, there is now only one.
I should add that Hinault is pronounced as ee-NO (For those who know IPA, /i.no/). Be grateful, I just saved you a few minutes of confused Googling.
(I’d also like to take this opportunity to also suggest Honey Badgers: Masters of Mayhem because honey badgers are absolutely insane.)
The 90s was cycling’s decade of doping. Yes, it happened before and after, but the 90s was when doping technology took off. The 90s was also the decade of Marco Pantani, an Italian cyclist and winner of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. This documentary portrays Pantani as a flawed individual who was a victim of his time.
One of the most highly-regarded climbers in cycling history, Pantani started biking as a child. Just as he was becoming successful, he suffered a brutal accident causing him to miss almost a year of cycling. Despite this, he went on to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in 1998, the last cyclist to have won both in the same year. Seen as the savior of Italian cycling, his downfall began when he was found to have elevated levels of red blood cells, suggesting use of the drug EPO. He was given a short suspension, but afterwards was forever a broken man – embarrassed and ashamed of his drug use. Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist looks at his breakdown and the role of culture and media in his eventual death by overdose. It’s a sobering documentary that causes us to examine our own role in the downfall of public figures.
Sadly, Lance Armstrong is the first name that comes to most Americans’ minds when they think of cycling. Stop at Nothing looks at the rise and fall of cycling’s most infamous individual. What makes this documentary revealing is that it focuses less on Armstrong’s doping and its effects on cycling as a sport, and more on his systematic efforts to destroy – financially and personally – those people who called him out on his deceit. Remember, this is what makes Armstrong such a loathsome character. He didn’t just lie. He lied and then went to any effort to keep them from being uncovered, no matter whom he had to hurt. As Armstrong tries to reassert his place on the Tour and as he tries to reduce his lifetime ban, we mustn’t forget the human impact of his egotism and obsession with being ‘the best’.
Clean Spirit offers an inside view of what life is like on the Tour. Following the Argos-Shimano team on the 2013 Tour de France, this documentary focuses less on the racing and more on the bikers’ off-the-road life – their time spent nursing their wounds and sleeping in hotel rooms. Marcel Kittel, the German cyclist, is the clear star of the film, but it also gives time screen time to the oft-neglected non-star cyclists – those cyclists who won’t win, but who are indispensable to their teammates’ success. Clean Spirit is ostensibly about a post-doping team, but this, I feel, is secondary to the intimate, voyeuristic look it gives us mortals.