The Greatest Cycling Films You've (Hopefully) Never Seen
We don't know about you, but we've been spending a lot more time on the turbo.
We've been lucky that here at our home base in Winchester in the UK we've had lockdown with a small 'L', and we've still been allowed to get outside on the bike. And we know that some of you, particularly our friends in Spain, France and Italy, have had far stricter restrictions (which are hopefully beginning to lift). But we've been sensible, limiting our outdoor rides to one or two a week and #Stayinglocal #Stayingsafe.
Which means more time on the turbo, with its amazing ability to bend time itself, where 15 seconds can feel like a minute and a minute can feel like an hour. So alongside Zwift we've turned to watching some classic cycling films to pass the time.
So here you are: the greatest cycling films you've (hopefully) never seen - and one that you most likely have, but really don't need an excuse to watch again.
Ok, so it's set in the mad, bad, juiced-up world of the early-2000's peloton. And it follows the thoroughly disgraced German Team Telekom and features a veritable rogues' gallery of dopers, including Vinokourov and Lance himself.
But if you can put that aside there's loads to admire here, not least the stunning cinematography. For us, it's the best insight into the craziness of the Tour that we've seen. Centred on grizzled roomies Eric Zabel and Rolf Aldag, you get a real insight into the pain glory of the sprinter, the dedication of their teammates and a proper sense of the struggle through the mountains on the road to Paris.
France has never looked so lovely - just don't peek behind the curtain.
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Three weeks, thousands of kilometres, decided by mere seconds. Weeks of concentration, focus, plotting and paranoia. Little wonder the riders feel like prisoners of the race, breaking rocks daily just to stay alive.
Those riding for the win suffer most of all. Constantly chasing the uncatchable horizon, never afforded a moment’s rest. Trapped in the race and in the unquenchable pursuit of glory.
De Ronde - Behind The Scenes
The Tour of Flanders is more than a bike race to the Belgians. And when you watch this brilliant film you'll understand just how completely it takes over the country for one weekend each April.
Mainly eschewing the more obvious race action, the film expertly stitches together the narrative from a dizzying array of cameras following 'the race behind the race'. There's lenses in the team directors cars, on the moto with the staffer tasked with marshalling the press camera corps, with the race directors on the road and back at HQ, plus with the veteran TV commentators and the roadside fans.
The film is a triumph of editing, threading a meaningful narrative from multiple strands, adding depth and colour to the bare bones of the race. And it all ends with a truly memorable sign off from Peter Sagan, dropping the clown mask for once to show the racer underneath.
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Flanders: the heartland of cycling, where road racing is close to a religion. And for its disciples, there is no more hallowed ground the the Muur van Geraardsbergen, the cobbled ramp shearing skywards up to the Chapel Of Our Lady Of Oudenberg on slopes of nearly 20%.
This artwork, produced as an exclusive partnership between the Handmade Cyclist and Rouleur Magazine, features a detailed, architectural isometric projection of the chapel and it's surroundings, with a subtle, textured, watercolour finish.
23 Days In July
Before Ritchie Porte, before Cadel Evans, Phil Anderson was Australia's first true cycling star to hit the European peloton.
Always a distinctive sight with his brilliantly toothy smile (and in later years flying mullet and massive Oakley glasses), Anderson was a rider in the old-school mode, competitive from the Spring Classics right through the season. This film follows his attempt to win the 1983 Tour, so as you would expect it's a riot of classic bikes and jerseys and features some of the most iconic names in cycling, including Kelly, Lemond, Hinault and Fignon.
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A classic quote needs a classic china mug.
Enjoy your pre-ride brew in one of our handsome mugs, made by one of the oldest surviving fine bone china manufacturers in England. Fired in the heart of the potteries in Stoke on Trent in the same building that's been used since 1875 - a time before the Tour was even a twinkle in Desgrange’s eye.
A Sunday In Hell
Ok, so you may already have seen this one. And if you haven't, you really, really should. As much a piece of art as entertainment, Jørgen Leth's film takes a meditative look at the 1976 Paris - Roubaix.
No matter how many times we see it there's always something new to spot (and to this day we still have no idea what Eddy Merckx's mechanic is doing with that paintbrush at the start). There's relatively little race footage left of the 'golden era' of Merckx, De Vlaeminck etc, so this is a perfect time capsule that has really stood the test of time.
What strikes me every time I see it is both how much things have changed, and how little - no matter how much the bikes, the science and the training has moved forward, the primal challenge of Roubaix remains the same. And, oh boy, those guys could ride those skinny-tyred old bikes fast.
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We loved the film so much we created a tee in its honour.
Our Arenberg ’68 range of tees feature our unique chevron pattern inspired by the cobbled pavé of northern France. The Arenberg ’68 logo subtly references the arrow-straight trench road through the Arenberg forest, and the cobblestone trophy that awaits the victor. A Handmade Cyclist hip label in the fresh green of spring completes the look.
We hope you like our little selection of movies.
Hopefully there's something new there for you. Why not let us know what you think of them - or tell us if there's any we've missed. Ping us an email or let us know on our socials - the links are below.
And of course, stay safe. We'll see you up the road.
The Handmade Cyclist