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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » 2006 Ghent-Wevelgem & Het Volk
2006 Ghent-Wevelgem & Het Volk
World Cycling Productions // Unrated // September 1, 2006 // Region 0
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Worldcycling]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted December 23, 2006 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The movie

World Cycling Productions' 2006 Spring Classics series of professional bicycle racing kicks off with the two-race set of Ghent-Wevelgem and Het Volk. These early-season races are interesting not just for their own sake, but also as a glimpse of what the field looks like after the winter season of trades, training, and team reorganization. The 2006 edition of these races turns out to be quite interesting, with some surprises in store for riders and viewers alike.

While Ghent-Wevelgem gets top billing in the set, it makes more sense to watch the Het Volk disc first, as Het Volk is the earliest of the races on the calendar. This "semi-classic" race gets started in the chilly Belgian weather on February 25, with all the riders eyeing each other to see who looks strongest. It's not the first race of the year, but it's the first big one (coming even earlier than Milan-San Remo) and for Belgians, it's a very big deal. In the 2006 Het Volk, there's an expected showdown between the two strongest Belgian teams, Quick Step Innergetic and Davitamon Lotto. Quick Step is fielding World Champion sprinter Tom Boonen with a strong supporting squad that includes Filippo Pozzato and the veteran (and always wily) Servais Knaven. Davitamon also has depth and experience, with Belgian riders Peter Van Petegem (one of my favorite riders), Nico Mattan, Leon Van Bon, and Tom Steels, along with Aussie rider Robbie McEwen (one of my least favorite riders, but a tough sprinter).

The DVD coverage opens with a nice introduction that introduces the teams and riders as they check in. Paul Sherwen is on the ground interviewing riders and providing very helpful commentary about who's who and who has switched to what team: always essential information at the start of the season. I also liked that there's a post-race interview with the winner as well, which provides a nice wrap-up to the program. (It's also neat to see that Sherwen speaks Flemish; I've seen him translate and do interviews with French-speaking riders, but this is the first time I've seen him translate an interview in Flemish. He's a great asset to WCP, giving viewers that much more access to the riders and what they have to say.)

Once the race starts, we get an interesting set of events. As it happens, neither Davitamon nor Quick Step are able to control the day. We get a lot of attacks and surprises, with action throughout the entire race. The overall two-hour running time for the DVD is a good amount, delivering an interesting program.

If you're planning on watching all the Spring Classics, it makes sense to stop momentarily and watch the Tour of Flanders DVD, as that race is the next in the series (April 2). The other race on this DVD set, Ghent-Wevelgem, takes place just a few days after Flanders, on April 9, and there are many references in the introductory interviews to what happened in Flanders and how that will set the tone for Ghent-Wevelgem and the upcoming Paris-Roubaix.

Like Het Volk, the Ghent-Wevelgem program runs two hours and starts off with an excellent set of interviews (more than ten minutes' worth). Sherwen interviews a variety of riders, and we get some good insights into the race and the riders. We also get post-race interviews, which again really do a lot to help put the race into context so we can appreciate it.

The race footage for Ghent-Wevelgem picks up with 81 km to go, and takes us through the climb of the Monteberg and the two laps of the Kemmelberg as the most important strategic areas in the race, before finishing up with a flat ride of about 40 km to the finish. There's a lot of tough action on the climbs, with major riders attacking and being drawn back. The long flat run into the finish is always a bit chancy as far as excitement goes: sometimes it can be dull, if the peloton sticks together in one clump before the sprint finish. In this case, though, we get a very interesting run to the line, as several strong riders make attacks and we get a nail-biting lone breakaway at the end. The finish is quite tactical as well, making for one of the more exciting Ghent-Wevelgem finishes I've seen.

The DVD

This is a two-disc set, packaged in an attractive single-wide keepcase, with each race on its own DVD.

Video

Here's something new! The race footage here is in anamorphic widescreen! Yes, that's right: genuine widescreen. The Europeans have been ahead of us in the US with widescreen TV for a few years now, so it looks like they've taken the step forward and started doing sports footage in widescreen as well. It's definitely widescreen in its original form, because the on-screen visuals on the top and bottom of the screen are correctly placed; we're now getting more image on the sides, making for a more exciting visual.

Of course, there are some... technical difficulties... with the way that this unexpected improvement is presented on WCP's DVDs. The footage that's produced by WCP - the pre-race and post-race interviews and the introduction by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen - is still 4:3 rather than widescreen, as is the menu and the introductory splash screen. So if you're not expecting the switch, you'll have your TV set for the expected 4:3 image (after all, every previous WCP DVD was in that format, and nowhere on the case does it mention that the race is widescreen) but when you start seeing the riders in the actual race, you'll think "Don't they look awfully squished?"

You can either switch back and forth (which is what I did) or set your TV to treat it as widescreen from the start, making Phil and Paul look stretched in the short time that they're on-screen. In any case, I found the experience to be a bit weird... but hey, we get widescreen racing. Let's not look a gift horse in the mouth. (But let's hope that WCP gets their act together to make the whole program widescreen in the next season.)

As far as the image quality itself, it's quite good. Colors are bright and vibrant; the interviews in particular are very crisp and clean. There's some edge enhancement in the race footage, but overall it looks very nice.

Audio

The stereo soundtrack is excellent overall. The Het Volk track is perfect, with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen's voiceovers sounding clean and crisp, and with just the right amount of race ambiance worked in to the soundtrack. The Ghent-Wevelgem soundtrack is perfect in the race itself, but there's some audio drop-outs in the interviews that give the track a bit of a stutter. That's something that doesn't recur in the race footage, though, so overall it's very good.

Extras

On the Ghent-Wevelgem disc, we get a one-minute clip of "Phil and Paul in the Studio," showing how they do post-production commentary. It's brief but really quite interesting to see. There are no other special features (other than a listing of other DVDs for sale).

Final thoughts

The 2006 Ghent-Wevelgem and Het Volk set is a solid double feature, with both races offering solid entertainment value for cycling enthusiasts. It's an added bonus that the race footage is now in anamorphic widescreen (though with some odditites of presentation, it's still a win overall). I'll give this a "highly recommended" for fans of the Classics.

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