Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Le Ride

The 1928 Tour de France still stands as the toughest race in its history, with only 41 of the 161 racers who started the race finishing it. It was also the first Tour de France to feature an English speaking team with Australians Hubert Opperman, Ernie Bainbridge and Percy Osborne, and New Zealander Harry Watson making the long six week journey via ship to France to participate.

The story of this Australasian team is not very well known, which is why Phil Keoghan (host of The Amazing Race) and his friend Ben Cornell decided to retrace the route of the 1928 Tour de France and film their adventure. Le Ride documents their insane journey riding around France on those heavy, steel 1928 bikes that don't shift gears or have strong brakes. The film also shows footage of the underdog Australasian team and what they endured on each stage of that gruelling 1928 race competing against 10 man European teams on unpaved roads and riding for hours on end almost every day.

Phil and Ben gained a lot of respect for these riders and what they went through as they rode the route (although at least they had paved roads). The mountain stages in the Pyrenees and the Alps were particularly brutal, with the 225 miles of Stage 9 taking them 23 hours to complete. I really enjoyed the film as I'm a long time fan of Phil (since his mid-1990s Fox After Breakfast days) and I admired his optimism in tackling an adventure everyone else was telling him would not be successful. The film also showcased the beautiful scenery of France and you got to learn some Tour de France history along the way.

We were fortunate enough to have Phil in town to do a Q&A with Lee Turner from the St Kilda Cycling Club after the screening. Phil discussed what it was like to do the ride in 2013 at the age of 46, especially on those 1928 bikes (he did allow himself a modern ergonomic bike seat though). He discussed the physical toll it took on their bodies, which included hip pain for him for over a year. Since they were riding for so long every day it was impossible to eat enough to match the calories they were burning (hitting up French bakeries and eating quiches seemed to be one solution). They drank a magic concoction each night which seemed to help their recovery and prevent muscle cramping. They were also very fortunate to not have any punctures throughout the whole race (unlike the 1928 riders who faced multiple punctures in each stage), although Phil's handlebar frame cracked on the first day and had to be welded back together.

If you love the Tour de France or are a fan of Phil's you should definite check out Le Ride. It is screening at ACMI through 12 February and will have a showing at SXSW in Austin in March 2017.

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