The Lanceville 100

Last night I went to see a “grown up” movie for the first time in ages. Having two kids means the movies I see in theatres generally have talking animals of one sort or another and lots of fart jokes. Race Across the Sky is a documentary about the Leadville 100, a mountain bike race famous for being extraordinarily hard and long, not to mention being a zillion miles above sea level where there is basically no oxygen. Now, a one hundred mile race (known by bike geeks as a Century) on a road bike is hard, but on a mountain bike is borderline insanity. Up until 2009, the Leadville 100 was mostly famous among die-hard mountain bikers for being one of the toughest races in the world. In 2009, it became famous because Lance Armstrong showed up and won. And not just won, but ripped the legs off the guy who had won it for the previous six years straight. So somebody had to make a movie out of it. After seeing the movie, I’m thinking that particular someone probably works for Lance. In the spirit of the Tour de Lance, Race Across the Sky is less a story about a race and more a story about the superhuman goldenboy of cycling. Now I will at this point have to come out and say I am a HUGE Lance Armstrong fan. From the steely eye-of-the-tiger gaze to the chiseled jawline, bulging leg and ass muscles to his poor-white-trash to riches to cancer survivor to champion of the world as we know it story, I am so there. He is an athlete that comes along all too rarely (assuming he’s clean of course), like Gretzky and Phelps. Which brings me to my point. Why would Lance, just three weeks after winning the Tour de France (ok, let me repeat that one…WINNING the TOUR de FUCKING FRANCE) go and enter this primarily amateur race in a tiny town in Colorado? And he did not just enter to do it, or raise money, or have fun… he entered to win. He even said so. The top guys who do this race are no slouches, far from it, but I couldn’t help wonder what it would be like if Gretzky showed up at Paul’s beer-league game one night and proceeded to kick everyone’s ass. On purpose.

The climax of the action happens about 7 miles from the finish when our hero gets a flat. Something I am sure he has experienced many times, except in this particular race there is no team car, no “domestique” whose sole role it is to ride your spare bike until you need it. He’s on his own and actually looks nervous. He fumbles with a couple C02 cartridges and fails to inflate the tire, all in front of the anxious and panting camera man. Rather than risk further embarrassment, and to once again prove his superiority over mere mortals, he hops back on the bike and cycles the remaining 7+ miles on a flat rear tire, winning by a tidy 10 minute margin and obliterating the previous race record by an amount so spectacular the movie doesn’t even mention it. Perhaps out of respect for the poor guy who just unwittingly participated in this cinematic ass kicking for our entertainment.

The Lance factor was hard to ignore in the movie, complete with sweeping helicopter shots and dramatic orchestral crescendos (yah, ok, ok we get it, he’s biking really hard and there’s nobody around for like, 20 miles). However the race coverage was excellent, full of other compelling stories, and made even me want to dust the snow off my 45 pound mountain bike and head for the hills. But in the event I do, you can be sure that I would be able to change my own flat.