"Road to Roubaix" Review

by Jack  

Link: http://www.masterlinkfilms.com/

My wife and I attended the world premier screening of Road to Roubaix this past Sunday here in New York City as part of the first leg of the ’08 Bicycle Film Festival. As soon as we arrived, we immediately said to ourselves, “only in NY”. It seemed more of a get together for the city’s bike messengers and the alternative crowd rather than a bunch of cyclists with farmer’s tans owning $5000 bikes. Not to be stereotypical, of course. The screening was held at the Anthology Film Archives building on the edge of the East Village and the Lower East Side. Located in an old Courthouse building, the organization geniously plugged up the buildings beautifully detailed windows to create 2 theatres inside.

Program 14 consisted of 3 screenings, 2 shorts and the main attraction. The first film, titled Standing Start, was a 12 minute look at what it takes to become a good track cyclist. Sprinter Craig MacLean is front and center as the film takes you through his routine leading up to the gun. This was a well shot film that included some good music to help dramatize the scenes but even at 12 minutes, it was a few minutes too long. Though, I think our fixed gear messenger friends seemed to love it.

Program 2 was titled Millar’s Tale. Yes, as in David Millar. It’s an 11 minute film showing him being candid about his rise in the pro peloton, the pressure’s it placed on him, his subsequent drug use and his comeback. This is a story that everyone knows well, no need for a film. It didn’t tell me anything new.

The final program was the big daddy of them all, Road to Roubaix. At 75 minutes long, it provided a clear and dramatic take on preparing for, riding and finishing the “Hell of the North”. The various interviews with riders, writers, directors and fans help guide the audience as we struggle to understand just want it means to ride a 160 mile race that includes some of the harshest roads for cars let alone bikes. Except for a few groans during a couple of Lance Armstrong interviews (can you blame the guy?) and some awkwardness when Ivan Basso talked, the film was well received by the group. The filmed used the 2007 edition as the backdrop so heavy emphasis was placed on the main protagonists at that time including Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellera, Allessandro Ballan and the eventual winner, Stuart O’Grady. George Hincapie also appeared in a few scenes but they failed to mention he actually didn’t take part in that year’s edition. A stunning moment came when former Tour de France boss Jean-Marie LeBlanc exclaimed that George will one day win Paris Roubaix. This was stunning because he chose a non-Frenchman. Let’s cross our fingers that George can finally do it in 2009.

One of the most interesting scenes of this film was its shots of the post race showers. They’ve been much talked about and are just as much a part of the Paris Roubaix history as the cobbles. It’s almost a right of passage for any rider as all pride gets stripped, literally, and the line between the big stars and the little domestiques get blurred. At the end of the movie, I didn’t get a sense that I learned something new but I did get a better understanding of the race and at a very different perspective. Watching Phil and Paul or Anthony and Brian is completely different than watching this documentary. One can’t replace the other but together, they make a very powerful story.

If you are close to any one of the next stops on the Bicycle Film Festival, I recommend spending a few bucks to support this film (assuming it will continue to play at the other festival stops). Please see the link above for the main website of this documentary where you can view the trailer.

I'd be interest in hearing from others that have watched this film as well.

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Comment from: dave cooper [Visitor]
dave cooper
5 stars

Jack,

I’d just like to thank you for the write-up regarding our film, Road To Roubaix. I hope you enjoyed it.

All the best,
Dave

06/05/08 @ 13:24
Comment from: [Member]
Jack
5 stars

Dave,

My pleasure! I wish you all good luck and will keep up to date on your film’s progress.

Jack

06/05/08 @ 21:55
Comment from: Ricky Roadracer [Visitor]
Ricky Roadracer
3 stars

My review of Road to Roubaix would be very different. I do not like leaving non-positive reviews, but I feel you should have some honest feedback from 1) a cyclist 2) a short film maker myself and 3) the general response from the 150 or so that attended the film.

The film could have easily been 50% shorter. It was way too long (in the pre-race interviews) and you could feel the audience slipping away.

The music was not very inspiring, slow and slogging… like the numberous repeat interviews.

I did not really like what I percieved as an attemt to make the film look vintage during the racing part of the film by making it monochrome (black and white) instead of continuing with color. (although I DID enjoy the true vintage B&W footage).

I know how difficult it is shooting and editing something like this, I admire your efforts (Dave?) but I’m afraid this film will not excite most cycling fans.

I think it could be re-edited to half the length and be an excellent film.

Cheers,

Signed “Honest Feedback”

02/21/09 @ 02:07
Comment from: [Member]
Jack

Ricky,

Thanks for your review. It’s always good to hear both sides of the story. I’d be interested to watch it again and see if I do agree with some of what you’re saying. I have to admit, there was the initial excitement of watching this premiere that could have clouded my opinion. But regardless, I always applaud anything cinematic about cycling since it’s such a rarity.

Jack

02/21/09 @ 08:33
Comment from: Jeremy Leipzig [Visitor]  
Jeremy Leipzig
2 stars

Yeah this film needs someone to take a hatchet to it. We don’t need to watch 10 interviews of pros who say the same exact thing: “this race is very special” and “to win this race would be very special". One is enough. I also cannot believe the awkward and stammering interview with that Belgian spectator made it into the movie. What this movie needs is a lot more race footage.

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