"Race Across the Sky": movie of Leadville 100
The Leadville 100 is part of the new breed of long distance mt-bike races that are catching on across the country. This one has been going for years now and has caught on among a wide range of riders. It's a local event...and it's national, too.
It's held up at high elevation and runs on 2-tracks, dirt roads, some pavement in an out'n'back format.
About 1500 do it.
There's some neat backstory to it. Local boy Dave Wiens has won it, like, 6 times. He's in his mid-40's now. Word got out a few years ago about how fun it is and first Floyd and then Lance tried to knock Dave off the top slot. No doing! It's not too often that an old dude gets to beat Tour de France dudes.
Last year Dave finally got beat, but that was fun, too. Coz Lance had made his comeback. Coming right off the Tour, Lance beat both Dave and the course record by, like, a half hour, which was fun for everyone to see.
Whenever the big guns have come to town everyone has wondered what would happen, how would the race play out.
Now we have a feature-length, feature-quality movie that gives a look into how all that feels.
Before hopping into the movie, just reflect a second on how lucky we are: 10 years ago there were no movies like this about events like this. Thanks to the Internet, baby, it's now all possible. I imagine that desktop movie-editing is a big bonus, too, as is what are probably thriftier cameras. But you still have to hire a helicopter to get bigscreen action. It's still a big project. It's just that today it can exist. It can happen. A big change! At the same time, since the subject is drama, we need some tension, we need an opposing force, both in the subject and in the subject of the subject: Is the goal to have 1000 new kinds of enthusiast movies out there? Even if they're all indie? While Hollywood is still the voice of the general culture and mainstream? United we stand, divided we fall. Niches can be a part of division, let's not forget it. My personal view is that niche media always needs to show how it ties back into the larger community. "Race Across the Sky" goes a good long way toward doing this.
It shows how the race is about the town and about the local folks who love the mountains and trails.
The opening scene of the organizer giving a pep talk to the crowd at registration is a wonderful thing. It's like hearing a Baptist preacher go at it. Dave gets called up and gives it all right back to the people, his neighbors. There's some good attitude going down at this event.
Lance has an ongoing role in this movie. He's interviewed and does some voiceover. He's the patron giving his approval. Well, he's a bit country, too, it seems and he fits right in.
Dave holds up his end as the patient family guy.
A helicopter does good service showing the race flow along the top of the world, above tree-line, on short green alpine grass with huge drop-offs next to the trail.
What's also neat is that the spectators are all along shown as being as much a part of the race as the racers. And the slower, older racers are included as much as the winners. It's a bottom-up thing. It really is neat seeing the differences, but nobody is being dissed here. Lance is the lean motor, cleaning everything. Dave ends up pushing/walking a bit. Other folks get pulled when they can't make the cut-off. Everybody seems to know everybody.
One local guy has done it 15 times with the same old bike. When it starts raining he puts on a full fisherman's rainsuit. He knows things. He's the road warrior.
I also liked it when the motorcycle is filming Lance near the end and he points over and asks if they're overheating, since the radiator is letting off steam. He's making sure the moto is OK. Another time, at the top of the highest climb, the heli catches Weins rounding a corner with spectators huddled in the hail and you hear him shout, "Thanks for all your help!"
There are numerous, interesting and surprising profiles of other riders sprinkled throughout -- one is only captured as an older woman pushes her bike up an alpine slope and testifies to the cameraman about what might've kept her from being there.
Leadville is a celebration of locals and their high mountains. There's another "big race" movie out called "Bicycle Dreams" about RAAM. It's about how RAAM is a chance to see the country in one big bite. Just look at it! "Dreams" does a good job of showing the glory...and the darkness...from the rider's POV. (But how does that *really* relate to the $25k cost? I'd like to see a bit more attention given to that side.) By contrast, Leadville is about one really big day for folks of all levels (from super-tough to extra-tough, that is). It's a sacrifice to the mountains, a pilgrimage. It kinda seems like the folks are giving back in suffering to their big playground. But mountains aren't a playground...that maybe could be dealt with somehow, too. Factors of money (class) and the need for distraction might come into play. Is it right that these movies tend to be so completely gungho? I guess when they show the misery we can think about the Why? for ourselves, but I'd kinda like the movies themselves to be bold enough to do it. I'm not sure that today's affinity-group enthusiast cultures really deal with some of the obvious and relevant questions about what they do. But "Race Across the Sky" comes close. I don't say documentaries on fun things need to go overboard with criticism, but they should give a nod to the wider reality on the ground, and maybe do more than preach to the converted. I don't know what that would look like but I'd like to see it tried. Or, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about and it's a bad idea and would be a downer and kill the market. Who knows! ("Bicycle Dreams" does play up the "this might be a bad idea" and craziness angles a bit but that's kind of a given, given the nature of RAAM.)