“I don’t think you know what you’re letting yourself in for, and if you did, you wouldn’t do it.” Jonathan Kennett, upon hearing the idea behind Le Ride.
Forget any prejudice you may hold against Phil Keoghan for his part in the televised game show ‘The Amazing Race’; Le Ride is not to be missed. The film documents an attempt to recreate the experience of the first English-speaking team to contest the Tour de France in 1928. The four-man team, comprised of three Australians and New Zealander Harry Watson, were the race’s underdogs, competing alongside European teams twice their size, and the French media unanimously predicted the team’s failure. As it was, the sheer brutality of the route eliminated 127 of the 168 starters.
The film’s riders, Keoghan and good friend Ben Cornell, set out from Paris following the conclusion of the 2013 race, on period race bikes and kit to match. Their plan is to trace the 1928 Tour’s 5600 kilometre route as faithfully as possible, adhering to the original schedule of 22 stages over 26 days. Their start is delayed—Ben’s bike is misplaced by an airline and leaving Paris is evidently a navigational nightmare—and they ride until midnight to complete the stage, the first of many after-dark finishes. One stage has the duo grinding away for 23 hallucinatory hours. Eyes reduced to mere slits, they’re slurring incoherently when they wobble to an eventual stop.
It’s difficult enough to comprehend how tough the Tour is today, let alone to imagine tackling it on the steel steeds of yesteryear, twice the weight of their modern counterparts. And while the film’s riders ‘enjoy’ the relative luxury of paved roads, their mechanical regime is authentic; breakages require welding, and shifting demands removal of the rear wheel to lift the chain to a different cog.
The rousing score, breath-taking scenery, and humorous lost-in-translation moments are wonderfully interlaced with vintage footage of bloody, beaten men, their suffering on full display.
Did our team succeed? No spoilers here; watch and see. Immense respect is due to them for even contemplating such an audacious feat. Inspirational doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Le Ride is screening nationally until December 29 – check out their Facebook event for screening venues (https://www.facebook.com/events/1594488990577208/) – and we have two doubles passes to give away. To be in to win, head on over to the Spoke Facebook page and tag a friend in our Le Ride post.