5 essential cycling documentaries

A Sunday in Hell (1976)

Arguably the best film ever made about professional bike racing, A Sunday in Hell chronicles the 1976 Paris-Roubaix one day classic. The visual equivalent of Tim Krabbe’s The Rider (see our list of great cycling reads) this is about as close as most of us will ever get to riding with the pro-peloton. Riders including Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser suffer heat, dust, cobbles, punctures, crashes and even the disruption of protesters before the final sprint for victory.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2ovi_3S82M

Slaying the Badger (2014)

This ESPN documentary tells the story of the 1986 Tour de France, and in particular the rivalry between Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault, aka, the Badger. Hinault had been helped to  victory by teammate LeMond in the previous year’s Tour and was meant to be returning the favour in order to help LeMond become the first American to reach Paris in yellow. Repeated attacks by Hinault in the high mountains betrayed a different motivation and led to one of the most dramatic Tours of all.

(Available on Netflix)

Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist (2014)

The extraordinary talents and tragic death of Marco Pantani (Il Pirata, or The Pirate) are laid bare in this feature length documentary which includes thrilling footage of his early years, as well as his victories in the 1998 Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. Pantani was extravagantly gifted as a climber, and battled back from serious injury, only to face allegations of doping which would lead to depression, and his death from cocaine poisoning. Some have accused the filmmakers of being too sympathetic to Pantani in relation to the question of doping, but the doc does reveal the pressures that were felt by the peloton at the time.

Pedaling to Freedom (2007)

This short film provides a startling case study of how bicycles can change lives. A 1993 project in Tamil Nadu, India, helped 230,000 people to read and write, and also provided mobility by teaching over 100,000 women to ride bicycles. Wages increased 1000% over just one year for an investment of less than two dollars per person.

With My Own Two Wheels (2011)

An uplifting look at how individual lives from different parts of the world can be transformed one pedal stroke at time. In Zambia a caregiver rides from village to village visiting AIDS patients; In Guatemala pedal power replaces diesel engines; In California working in the neighborhood bike shop provides an alternative to gangs; In India bicycles open up education by making the journey to school possible. Inspiring stuff.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *