For vintage bike lovers, there are really only four contenders. This is for those yet to have the pleasure of watching these films.
The Top Four
The four contenders are:
A Sunday in Hell
A film of Paris-Roubaix 1976 directed by the Dane, Jørgen Leth, this is the most dramatic of the four, and the music of Gunner Møller Pedersen adds intensity.
The drama is the duel between Eddy Merckx (Molteni) and Roger de Vlaeminck (Brooklyn), but featuring the other prominent riders of the day, Francesco Moser (Sanson-Benotto), Hennie Kuiper (TI-Raleigh), Walter Godefroot (Ijsboerke), Freddy Maertens (Flandria-Velda) and Raymond Poulidor (Gan-Mercier). However, the race was won rather surprisingly by Marc Demeyer, team mate of Maertens who crashed out of the race.
La Course en Tête
All about Eddy Merckx and released in 1974, this film contains some lovely training scenes of Merckx on his rollers and out on the road behind a moped, as well as loads of racing action. Is it all about the man? Well, yes, but the whole atmosphere of professional bike racing is beautifully captured, and Merckx’s ‘Pumpkin’-coloured bike also gets its share of close-up air time.
I will for ever be grateful to the film maker Joël Santoni for choosing David Munrow and the Early Music Consort of London to provide the music, which is a joy from start to finish.
Stars and Water Carriers
The 1973 Giro d’Italia is the subject, with a famous duel between Merckx and the diminutive Spanish climber Fuente. All the Italian aces are also present, led by Felice Gimondi of course. And Italy is beautiful.
Another film by Jørgen Leth, and therefore with Danish rider Ole Ritter much in evidence, the English commentary is a bit stilted, but who cares!
(Leth also made “The Impossible Hour”, about Ole Ritter’s attempt on the hour record, and this is sometimes sold as a package with this film.)
The Greatest Show on Earth
All these films are marvelous, but for me this is the best one.
It depicts the dramatic duel between Merckx and Gimondi, in the 1974 Giro. Merckx won by 12 seconds. Fuente features prominently again and anyone who likes watching a gifted climber will love this.
This film is the best because of the sheer excitement it conveys through the brilliant camerawork, the breathtaking action, the stunning beauty of Italy and the soundtrack.
There are loads of others worth watching but my favourites include:
Anquetil – The Man, The Mystery, The Legend
This covers his early career but also the drama of his great double win.
Pour un Maillot Jaune
The story of Felice Gimondi’s win in the 1965 Tour de France. A bit of an ‘art’ film by the celebrated French film maker Claude Lelouch.
I notice that more and more interesting clips and entire films and TV programmes are being posted on YouTube. Some are in French or Italian, but worth searching about a bit.
Here are two recommendations:
Poulidor premier Qualité HD 1080p
In French but great pictures of the great man and his beautiful pink Mercier.
Vive Le Tour (1962)
Featuring Bahamontes, Van Looy et al.
Many of these videos are available on DVD from Bromley Video.