Cycling movies can run the gamut, from good to god awful. Who can forget Kevin Costner’s regrettable 1985 effort in American Flyers? Thanks goodness for Rae Dawn Chong.
But while American Flyers missed in its attempt to delve deep into the world of hardcore bike racing, a moving documentary making the rounds of U.S. theaters hits the mark. Bicycle Dreams chronicles the pain, suffering and mental anguish experienced by competitors of the Race Across America, a 10-day, 3,000-mile grind across the whole the United Stages from Pacific Ocean to Atlantic. It’s not uncommon for riders to pedal for 20-plus hours at a stretch. Some go as long as 40. About half the race’s starters do not make it to the finish line. Hallucinations are standard operating procedure. Tears are commonplace.
“They deal with searing desert heat, agonizing mountain climbs, and endless stretches of open road. And they do it all while battling extreme exhaustion and sleep deprivation,” says Stephen Auerbach, the film’s director and producer. “It’s a great subject for a film.”
To pull off this film-making feat, Auerbach employed 18 cameras and embedded camera operators all over the course and inside racer crew vehicles. This intimate access availed insider access to the cyclists and their teams, and allowed Auerbach to capture emotional and physical breakdowns, late-night strategy sessions, and touching moments of personal triumph.
Praise for the film has come from all corners. Bicycle Dreams won awards at the Fallbrook and Breckenridge film festivals, as well as the Yosemite, Grand Rapids, Red Rock and All Sports LA film festivals. More recently it added the Best Foreign Film trophy from the Krasnogorski International Festival of Sports Films in Moscow, and was invited to be included in the 2011 World Cinema Showcase in New Zealand as well as the Mountain Film Festival in Istanbul, Turkey.
If you happen to live in Colorado and want to see the film, you’re in luck. Bicycle Dreams will have its Denver premiere at the Denver Film Center on March 14 at 7 p.m. The screening is a benefit for BikeDenver, a bicycle advocacy organization charged with promoting bicycling as an energy efficient, non-polluting, healthy and fun transportation alternative in and around Denver.
Tickets are $11 in advance, $15 at the door. There will be two screenings on March 14, at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be ordered online at www.denverfilm.org.
All photos courtesy Bicycle Dreams