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The five best cycling documentaries

· 529 words · about 3 minutes


"I wanted to create a poetics of it, to portray sports heroes as representing old-fashioned virtues, such as courage, sacrifice, [and] extreme loyalty."

The Paris-Roubaix Classic. 273 kilometres of torment across the bone-crunching pavé of northern France. In 1976 the celebrated Danish film director, Jørgen Leth, embarked on an ambitious project to capture the spirit of this spectacular and cruel one-day race. The resulting film, A Sunday in Hell, has become the most admired cycling documentary of all time, and its revolutionary camera and sound techniques have forever changed the way the sport is viewed on screen.


"More than anything, I can't stand the idea of losing, because, to me, that equals death."

Seasoned documentarian Alex Gibney set out to make a celebratory film about America's greatest cyclist, Lance Armstrong, returning to the Tour de France after a much-publicised battle with cancer. However, only a few months into production, Armstrong appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show to confirm what many had suspected for years - that Armstrong had doped his way to past victories. Incensed yet intrigued, Gibney decided to make an exposé of Armstrong and the methods he used to beat the chasing pack - at any and all costs.


"One thing you have to do is respect your competitors."

The second of three films from Sachin: A Billion Dreams director James Erskine on our list, Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist is a classic tale of self-destruction, following the rise and fall of Italian - and world - cycling's poster boys before the Lance Armstrong era. An outspoken critic of doping in competitive sports, while struggling silently with his own addiction to cocaine which would ultimately lead to his untimely demise, Erskine expertly captures the immense pressure thrust upon elite atheletes by their team, their fans, the media and - of course - themselves.


"It never gets easier; you just go faster."

Before Lance Armstrong, there was Greg LeMond, who is now the first and only American to win the Tour de France. In this engrossing documentary, LeMond looks back at the pivotal 1986 Tour, and his increasingly vicious rivalry with friend, teammate, and mentor Bernard Hinault. The reigning Tour champion and brutal competitor known as "The Badger," Hinault 'promised' to help LeMond to his first victory, in return for LeMond supporting him in the previous year. But in a sport that purports to reward teamwork, it's really every man for himself.


"I ended up doing twelve Tour de Frances. All I ever wanted to do was one."

Finlay Pretsell's Time Trial gives us an exhilarating and terrifying place in the race, providing an immersive experience as close to actually competing as you will ever see on film. David Millar, a seasoned Scottish cyclist shrouded in darkness, declares an intention to rise again. We are thus thrust into his last season in the saddle, intimate and immediate, along with the intricate relationships of cyclist, road crew, fellow competitors, manic fans, and the media circus surrounding it all.

Time Trial - Rent

Time Trial - Rent