It’s entirely possible that newer fans imagined that documentaries about pro cycling began with ‘Road to Glory’ the Team Sky / British Cycling series shown last year. When you watch ‘Beyond the Peloton’ you realise it has actually all been done before, long before Bradley Wiggins became famous for being (well) Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish was the new sensation at HTC Columbia.
‘Beyond..’ features the Cervelo Test Team born out of the manufacturer losing its position as supplier to CSC after the 2008 season and deciding to go it alone. The team was built around Carlos Sastre, winner of the 2008 Tour de France and Thor Hushovd, but following his scene stealing podium places in the spring classics Heinrich Haussler is the rider that the filmmakers gravitate towards.
The doc is introduced by robotic sounding Cervelo employee Joseph who is apparently entrusted with telling the story of the teams first season. Despite promising to bring the perspective of the mechanics and soigneurs Joseph pretty soon defaults to the view from the saddle or the team car. The footage is generally hand held shaky but this does help to convey the sometimes chaotic nature of racing none more so than during the Giro d’Italia when Serge Pauwels goes off message and leaves Sastre flailing on a climb.
Something missing from ‘Road to..’ was technical detail on the teams bikes. ‘Beyond..’ as much a marketing exercise as for the fans has some interesting segments featuring Gerard Vroomen and Phil White during wind tunnel development and later on modifications to the bike for Paris Roubaix. It’s hard to imagine ‘Road to..’ featuring the raw egg and dessert wine concoction whipped up for Sastre either!
Sadly missing from ‘Beyond..’ was much reference to the women’s Cervelo team that pre-dated the men’s team. Other than a few frames in episode 1 and a brief appearance by Kristen Armstrong in episode 2 (ironically where she is more aerodynamically efficient than Hushovd in the wind tunnel) the ladies do not feature at all.
As the season progresses its fair to say that although the supposed goals for the season are unrealised, the results that are achieved more than compensate. Spoiler alert! Haussler cements his classics results (at one point during 2009 he was the #1 ranked rider in the world) with a stage win at the Tour. Sastre goes well at the Giro winning two stages and (following a disqualification of a rival for doping) finishes 3rd overall. At the Tour Sastre struggles but Hushovd while unable to compete with Cavendish on out and out speed does enough to claim the green points jersey.
These days Hushovd is with BMC but has been off the radar following illness in 2012. Sastre failed to reach the heights of his 2008 results and retired at the end of 2011. Haussler joined the neo pro-continental IAM team this year.
‘Beyond the Peloton’ in 2009, ‘Road to Glory’ in 2012. Plus ca change!
Few problems embedding this. click on the link below for season 1 with seasons 2 and 3 on the VCSE YouTube channel.
This series of clips was produced 20 years ago but many of these are still available.
There’s some classic early 70’s clips including ‘A Sunday in Hell’ my all time favourite documentary about Paris Roubaix. The final clip shows Eddy Merckx during his world hour record attempt. This was completed at altitude in Mexico. It’s hard to imagine the record being attempted in these less than sterile surroundings now.
It’s all introduced by a youthful Phil Ligget (check the full head of hair).
No real surprises that the first two videos are Paris Roubaix related. ‘Paris Roubaix… Is Epic!’ seems to be going for the look and feel of a cinema trail but reminds me of a motivational presentation. Worth a watch a minute thirteen though.
The second ‘Museeuw – a throw of the dice’ is a joint Rapha / Ridley Scott production. When a section of the video has a Marty Feldman lookalike in Napoleonic era uniform clutching a cobblestone I remembered that the best bit of Ridley Scott’s first film ‘The Duellists’ was the way it looked rather than a great screenplay.
Johan Museeuw was one of the first riders I remember when the Tour de France was being shown on Channel 4 largely due to him being known as a sprinter in the early years of his career.
As far as the classics and Paris Roubaix in particular he won the race three times in 1996, 2000 and 2002.He also won the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen) three times, Paris Tours and Amstel Gold once. His Palmares cover an eleven year period from the early 90’s to the 2002 in a sixteen year career.
Left a bit – Johan Museeuw
Museeuw was on Greg Lemond’s coat tails if not his wheel as part of Lemond’s ADR team for his second TdF win in 1989. In 1998 having won the Tour of Flanders for third and final time Museeuw suffered a knee injury on Paris Roubaix so serious that there was talk of him losing a leg. He had of course already won the race once at this point.
After a dogged return to fitness, not helped by another accident involving a motorbike, Museeuw crossed the line first in the Roubaix Velodrome in 2000 pointing at his left knee.
There was a final twist in the tail for Museeuw at Paris Roubaix in 2004 when he punctured while part of the final break. He crossed the line in tears denied a 4th win in the classic which, at the time, would have tied him with Roger de Vlaeminck.
There are one or two clips of the early 70’s documentary about Paris Roubaix “A Sunday in Hell” that can be found on You Tube. The pantheon of cycling films is not vast and most seem to remain marketable. The full version remains available and the snippits available online work well as a part trailer, part advert for the main event.
In many ways it’s ageless; the landscape, the cobbles that haven’t changed in years, if at all. Shot on film, the english voiceover very precise in a way it can only be when not done by an Englishman or perhaps someone who entered the recording studio just concerned with reading the script and collecting their fee.
Nevertheless it’s a classic (in every sense). I’m always struck at how little the bikes seemed to change from the 60’s through to the 90’s even when watching older footage. I love the narrow Reynolds tubing aesthetic but do not possess the engineering or design smarts to see how the curved and kicked out forks can work like the straight blades used today. Paris Roubaix is a race for those skilled in bike handling as much as strength and speed.
The pleasing visual aspects continue with the sight of Peugeot 505’s with sponsors boards fastened to the radiator grill and bendy aluminium roof racks. The musical air horns are a sound that can transport me to a narrow road in northern France in my imagination.
This clip opens with Roger De Vlaeminck. For many years it was reasonable to assume that Paris Roubaix would (perhaps could ) only be won by someone like De Vlaeminck or Merckx. A ‘Flemish Superman’.
De Vlaeminck can perhaps claim to be the most super of the supermen with his four wins but he could be surpassed by fellow Belgian, four time winner and superman Tom Boonen (last years winner) in 2013.
George Hincapie describes riding on the pave like ‘..riding on railway tracks’. The literal translation from the Flemish for cobbles is babies heads!
The finish line, appropriately enough, is at the Roubaix Velodrome. Anyone familiar with the lower divisions of the Football League or Speedway and Greyhound tracks would feel right at home here. The winner of the race is immortalised with a small brass plaque fixed to one of the communal shower cubicles which have an air of a farmyard milking parlour.
For me it’s the determination to maintain as many of the original elements of the race as possible that makes Paris Roubaix a must see.