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Top 10 Sports DVDs of 2005
1. 2005 Ghent-Wevelgem / Het Volk With Lance Armstrong's historic seven consecutive Tour de France wins, many viewers might think that "le Tour" is the be-all and end-all of pro cycling... but they're very, very wrong. Beyond the multi-day (and multi-week) stage races like the Tour, there's a whole world of one-day races that pack even more thrills. After all, in a Classic race, the first rider over the line is the winner, so there's no sitting back and waiting to make up the time on the next day! The Classics are at their best in World Cycling Production's DVD of the 2005 Ghent-Wevelgem and Het Volk races. The two races included here are extremely exciting, showcasing the Classics at their best... and let me tell you, the best Classics are flat-out the best racing to be had anywhere and any time. With each race tightly edited to one action-packed hour, not only is this a must-buy for cycling fans, but this DVD is also a great choice for viewers who know just a little bit about racing (perhaps from watching the Tour de France) and are intrigued by the one-day race format.
2. World Poker Tour: Best of Season 3 Who would have thought that watching games of no-limit Texas hold'em would be so fun and addictive? Not me - but in any case, the World Poker Tour has turned into quite a phenomenon, and I've gotten completely hooked. It was tough figuring out where to put the Best of Season 3 set in this list. Given how much fun it was to watch, it clearly deserved a spot, and considering the surprising replay value of the set, it deserved a pretty high one. Also to its credit, the Season 3 episodes do a better job with always presenting the win percentages of the players' hands, rather than just displaying them once or twice during each hand. On the other hand, this is only a "best of," with no commentaries, so compared to the substantial Season 2 set, it's a bit of a step down. I'm going to give it a high spot in my list anyway, because even if there's not as much of it as we'd like, it's still packed with entertainment, and does offer an enticing way for viewers who are new to poker to get the "poker bug"!
3. Hell on Wheels This polished documentary follows the T-Mobile pro bicycle racing team as it attempts to challenge Lance Armstrong for the victory in the 2003 Tour de France. It's an in-depth look at the cycling life from behind the scenes, giving a realistic view of this grueling and glorious sport. Hell on Wheels deserves a lot of credit for achieving a difficult task: making a film that's engrossing for dedicated cycling fans (who will love the film's focus on star rider Erik Zabel) while at the same time being informative and completely accessible for viewers who don't know anything about cycling at all.
4. Evolution Running While the other DVDs on this list are documentaries or presentations of sports events, Evolution Running is a how-to program that's designed to get you participating in running on a higher level. It's a DVD that gets it exactly right: the focus is clear and specific, the information is in-depth and clearly explained, and the possibilities of the visual medium are fully exploited. A picture is worth a thousand words, especially when the concept being presented is something as complex and difficult to describe as "how to run more effectively and efficiently." If you're interested in improving your running and decreasing your chances of injury, Evolution Running is definitely a DVD to get.
5. Triathlon: Through the Eyes of the Elite Whether you're a participant, a fan, or simply an interested viewer, it's always fascinating to look behind the scenes of a sport. What does it take to make it to the top? That's the question that's posed in Triathlon: Through the Eyes of the Elite, and we get interesting answers, seeing exactly what it's like as top professional triathletes vie for spots on the US Olympic team. It's not as polished as a film like Hell on Wheels, but it has substance and heart, making it definitely worth viewing for anyone intrigued by the sport of triathlon.
6. 2005 Giro d'Italia: Falco Swoops to Victory! Cycling fans know that Italy's Grand Tour, the Giro d'Italia, is consistently fun to watch, and 2005's edition is no exception. The race is hotly contested by several major contenders for the "maglia rosa," the leader's pink jersey, and features a lot of aggressive action. No one is content to sit back and meekly take second place, so we have the potential for a major shakeup in the classification all the way to the finish. On top of that, we have the Giro's exciting sprint stages, and a classy presentation of the race on DVD.
7. 2004 World Series of Poker Who can resist more Texas hold'em action? For viewers who couldn't get enough poker with the World Poker Tour DVDs - which is probably a lot of people, considering how addictive watching poker is - this nice set provides in-depth coverage of the World Series event. One word to the wise, though: don't read the back cover of the DVD, as it spoils the eventual winner of the tournament.
8. 2004 Ironman Triathlon World Championship After watching Triathlon: Through the Eyes of the Elite, you'll probably be interested in seeing some actual triathlons, and the 2004 edition of the Hawaii Ironman serves up plenty of great material. This DVD nicely balances the "human interest documentary" side of the race with coverage of the race itself, giving us a program that's lots of fun to watch.
9. NBA Dynasty Series - Philadelphia 76ers - The Complete History The message is getting out: there's a lot of replay value in sports broadcasts! Basketball fans get a nice six-DVD set that takes a look at the history of the Philadelphia 76ers, with a combination of short documentaries about past seasons and several complete games that were, of course, chosen for their excitement and significance.
10. 2005 Tour de France The four-hour DVD version of the 2005 Tour de France makes it onto the Top 10 list not so much because of its content (the race itself was really not that exciting) but because of its presentation. Every year, WCP's Tour DVDs have gotten better, and 2005's is definitely the best yet. The coverage is just right, making even this modestly exciting Tour into something that's quite fun to watch, the "human interest" material has finally started to migrate out into the special features section instead of all being included in the main feature, and in addition to the great commentary team of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, we get some on-the-spot pieces from retired pro (and champion) Chris Boardman. If you're a big Tour fan, this is definitely the DVD to get.
- Holly Ordway

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