Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bicycle Dreams

3051.7 miles, with a goal of 12 days.
110,000 of climbing.
A drop-out rate of nearly 50 percent.
It’s 30 percent longer than the Tour de France.
It’s finished in half the time.
With no rest days.
The winner typically pedals 375 miles per day,
and finishes in 8 or 9 days.

By any normal standard, the Race Across America is an utterly insane event. Why would anyone do it? After watching Stephen Auerbach’s documentary, Bicycle Dreams, I still don’t understand. But any soloist who finishes this madness is a certifiable Bad Ass on a Bike.

Riding from San Diego to Atlantic City in 12 days (or less) pushes riders into the deepest, darkest parts of their minds, while subjecting them to no small about of danger. There’s no big prize money at stake, and it costs a small fortune to train, field a support crew and race. Some racers save for years just to reach the start line.

They ride while sobbing. They hallucinate. Beyond the usual definition of exhaustion, they attempt to sleep, and fail. Then they get back on their bikes—often with assistance because their bodies are so trashed—and keep riding. It doesn’t make sense. But it makes for a great film.

Auerbach, who recently contacted me to ask if I’d review a copy of Bicycle Dreams, set out during the 2005 RAAM to document the race using 18 cameras and an around-the-clock schedule. The result is powerful. It’s no secret to anyone who follows the race, even from afar, that the 2005 race turned out to be a heartbreaking event when Bob Breedlove died in a fatal crash in Colorado, but even without such a tragedy this race dishes out enough hurt to move a spectator to tears, and Auerbach got it on film.

Interestingly, he went completely indie on this project. With no big stars or a marketing budget, Auerbach hit the festival circuit and released a DVD without waiting or a distribution deal. It’s a grassroots campaign that’s getting a boost from awards at the Red Rocks, Yosemite, Breckenridge and All Sports LA film festivals.

Hopefully, it will also benefit from dumbass bloggers like me, because this is some riveting stuff. The suffering of the racers is epic, but their hearts are even bigger. Whether it’s rookie Chris Hopkinson riding with a sore neck supported by a jury-rigged contraption of foam, duct tape and inner tubes, or Jure Robic wanting to surrender his lead and quit when he loses the ability to conjure a mental image of his wife and daughter, it’s inspirational to watch them push through the torture. (Not that I was inspired to attempt anything similar, but I’ll certainly whine less during my next century ride.)

Click on over and order a copy. It’ll cost about as much as a new pair of gloves, and you’ll remember it a hell of a lot longer.

(Anchorage riders will remember 2005 as the year that hometown boy Ben Couturier raced as an 18-year-old rookie and became the youngest solo finisher in RAAM history. Couturier appears on screen for only seconds during a blurry nighttime shot, so you locals might want to keep an eye out for a Kaladi jersey and a pair of hairy legs.)


Joboo said...

A complete bad ass on a bike, or just love pain on a whole new level!!!
I'll keep my copy of Fat Bike and pass on this pain fest!!!

I don't think there's enough monkey powder to keep my ass fresh and clean, let alone unsore!!!

375 a day!!!!!? I'm having a hard time trying to wrap my small mind around that number!! Wow

Like you say a hundy is nothing any more!!!


Anonymous said...

I'll buy a copy, just out of respect. Good god. Makes the Tour look pansy.

The Monkee said...

I bet that'd look pretty good on our big TV. When's the screening?

Tim said...

I've been thinking along those same lines, Monkee. Maybe next weekend, if everyone's in town?

The Monkee said...

Next weekend is the weekend before the big race and I'm on for me.

61 Degrees North said...

I bought the movie and really enjoyed it. It's not about the race as much as the motivation of the riders. Very interesting to see other intense people pushing themselves to their very limits and beyond. I could identify with some of the motivation, but I'm too slow to ever do the RAAM.