13 November 2009

Race Across the Sky - Leadville Trail 100 movie review

Last night I went with some friends to watch the encore performance of the Race Across the Sky, the movie about the Leadville Trail 100 race.

Many of you may have heard of this epic mountain bike race that takes place in Leadville, Colorado - an old silver mining town west of Denver. The race was first ran in 1994. It started as an idea by race organizer and creator Ken Chlouber as a way to help the flagging economy of Leadville after the silver mine closed and the majority of the town was all of a sudden out of work.

Over the years, the race has obtained cult status. People who finish the race under 12 hours get a belt buckle. If you finish it under 9 hours, you get a bigger belt buckle. The race is capped at 1400 riders. Each year, there is a lottery for people to try and "win" a position on the start line. Past Tour de France winners have raced this. One unique element of the race is it is an "out and back" format. It starts in downtown Leadville, and races up to the turn-around point at the summit of the Columbine mine and back.

For the past 6 years, the race has been won by Dave Weins. Dave has bested rivals such as Tour de France winners Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong. The 2009 race saw the return of Lance Armstrong to challenge Dave Weins for the top position - this is the race the movie documents.

Enough with the history of the Leadville Trail 100. On to the movie. I loved this movie! The main focus of the movie was the battle between Armstrong and Weins, but there were several sub-stories that focused on some of the other riders in the field. One of the more touching moments in the film was where Ken had to stop an old friend at the cutoff point because he didn't make the time cut.

The photography was beautiful. It's one thing to look at the course on a topographical map and think "man this looks hard" but to see it from aerial views and up close and personal camera really showed how truly difficult this course actually is.

I want to talk a moment about Ken Chlouber, the person who came up with this insanity back in 1994. He is truly the heart and soul of the Leadville Trail 100, and was my favorite part of the movie. Let me say that if every race organizer was as enthusiastic as he is, they all would be filled to capacity. Watch this video of the rider meeting the day before the race, and you get an indication of what I mean.

There was a panel discussion before and after the film with Lance Armstrong, Dave Weins, Travis Brown, Matt Shriver and race organizer Ken Chlouber where they talked about what they were expecting from the race, and how the race went. I enjoyed this part as well, beacuse it showed me another side of Lance that I hadn't seen before. I have thought that Lance was an extremely talented cyclist, but he hasn't been one of my favorites. Watching him admit that he can't change a flat, and the rest of the panel kidding him about that fact. And him admitting that He wouldn't dare ride the course with drop bars, like Travis Brown did. It made him seem not so mythic, and more real.

The theater that we saw it in was a little less than half-full (half-empty for you pessimsts) last night, but I heard that theaters were sold out during the inital showing.

I have to say again that I loved this movie! When it was over, my friend and I asked each other if we wanted to do this, then agreed that we are no where near the condition that we would need to be to complete it. I would say to go and see it, but this was an encore presentation of a limited engagement. I doubt that there will be another encore. I hope that it comes out on DVD before Christmas. I know what I will be asking Santa for this year (along with a new mountain bike, I need to get training if I want to do this!)

At least you can enjoy the trailer...

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