Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo are
two important early-season bicycle races that don't always make it
onto DVD, so it's nice to see the 2005 edition of both races for our
viewing enjoyment. Both races are part of the new "Pro Tour"
which has replaced the traditional World Cup series of races, but
it's too early to tell how much influence the Pro Tour will have on
the season as a whole.
Paris-Nice is an eight-day stage
race, traditionally known as the "Race to the Sun" from its
start in chilly March weather in Paris leading to its finish in
sunny, warm Nice. Bad weather often interferes with the early days of
the race, and 2005 was no exception, as severe weather conditions
forced the race organizers to shorten Stage 2 to a mere 46
kilometers. Apart from that, though, Paris-Nice went off without a
After a short prologue time trial,
the race includes both mountain stages and more flat stages. US
viewers will be interested to know that the start list includes
Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie from the new Discovery Channel
team (now that US Postal is no longer sponsoring a team) and Bobby
Julich from the strong CSC team. Armstrong doesn't put in much of an
appearance, as this is just an early-season warmup for him, but there
are plenty of other big stars who really are looking for the win.
T-Mobile's two-time winner Alexander Vinokourov is a star of the
peloton here, as is last year's winner Jorg Jaksche from Liberty
Seguros and Iles Baleares' Alejandro Valverde.
The approximately two-hour coverage
of Paris-Nice's prologue and seven road stages is well handled
overall, with the editing nicely done for the most part. The one
exception is Stage 6, which has long stretches of uneventful racing
and should have been cut down. Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen deliver
their usual interesting and enthusiastic commentary, and the coverage
does a good job of displaying stage profiles, stage results, and the
general classification after each stage. As a race, it's reasonably
interesting, but not totally gripping. There are several quite
interesting stages, but in the end I felt the win was not as exciting
as it could have been.
Milan-San Remo gets just about the
perfect amount of coverage here: 55 minutes. It's long enough to
capture all the exciting moments of the race, while also being short
enough to stick to just those exciting parts. Milan-San Remo holds a
special place in the hearts of many cyclists and racing fans, as one
of the most beloved (and longest-running) Italian Classics, as a
challenge for the sprinters, and as an introduction to the spring
racing season. At almost 300 kilometers, it's also the longest of the
modern Classics. It's mainly flat, making it a favorite of the "fast
men," but the essential nature of Milan-San Remo is captured in
its famous climbs: the Cipressa and the Poggio.
The 2005 edition of Milan-San Remo
is quite interesting, and is probably one of the more interesting
ones that I've seen. There's a lot of action and reaction, with
aggressive riding and plenty of attacks, and the win is contested all
the way to the bitter end. The editing of the race footage is
excellent, but unfortunately I can't say the same of the commentary.
Replacing Phil Liggett as Paul Sherwen's co-commentator here is Bob
Roll. Bad idea. Really, really bad idea. Roll's commentary is awkward
and stilted to the point that he sounds like he's reading off of a
card; he's so far from having a conversation with Sherwen that for a
while I wondered if their two commentaries were recorded separately
and spliced together. Worse than that, Roll's comments are
uninteresting, and his enthusiasm sounds forced. Paul Sherwen is a
fantastic commentator, and I'd much rather see him do the commentary
alone than have to split it with Roll.
The 2005 Paris-Nice & Milan-San
Remo is a two-disc set, packaged in a nicely compact single-wide
keepcase. Paris-Nice occupies all of the first disc and some of the
second, with Milan-San Remo on the second. The DVD set is Region 0
The image quality for Paris-Nice is
excellent. The middle- and long-distance shots are fairly soft, as
they usually are, but the close-ups are beautifully crisp and
detailed. Colors look very good across the board, appearing rich and
vibrant while also having a pleasingly natural appearance. A few
instances of picture break-up occur, but these are from the original
broadcast rather than from the transfer. Milan-San Remo also looks
very good, with some softness but an overall attractive appearance.
Both races are presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio of their original
Paris-Nice sounds very good; the
Dolby 2.0 track does a great job of capturing the commentary, with
both Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen coming across clearly and cleanly.
Their voiceover always sounds natural and crisp, and is nicely
balanced with the incidental "race ambiance" sounds. It's a
nice clean track overall.
Milan-San Remo doesn't come out as
well; the commentary from both Paul Sherwen and Bob Roll is stuck in
the left front speaker, a rather annoying quality-control issue that
seems to happen fairly regularly on WCP discs. The remainder of the
soundtrack is normally distributed among the speakers, at least, and
it sounds clean and clear.
There are no special features here,
except for a printed start list on the inside DVD cover for both
races. The menu is rather awkward; on Disc 1 (Paris-Nice alone) it's
fine, but on Disc 2, the menu defaults to just Paris-Nice. In order
to access Milan-San Remo, you have to press "top menu." The
cover art and disc art is nicely done, though, as they are
Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo don't
make it onto DVD nearly as often as cycling fans would like, so it's
nice to see this set offered by World Cycling Productions. Paris-Nice
is interesting, though not as much as the 2004
edition; Milan-San Remo is the treat here, though it's marred by
the fact that Paul Sherwen is matched up with the weak commentating
skills of Bob Roll. Overall, it's hard to beat two races in one nice
package, and the 2005 Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo certainly
deserves a "recommended" rating for cycling fans.