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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Lance Armstrong - Road to Paris
Lance Armstrong - Road to Paris
World Cycling Productions // Unrated // April 15, 2002 // Region 0
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Worldcycling]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted May 4, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

Even people who don't usually follow bicycle racing know about Lance Armstrong: the professional cyclist who came back from cancer to win the most famous bicycle race in the world, the Tour de France, not just once but four times now in succession (1999 through 2002). The documentary Road to Paris follows Armstrong and the rest of the U.S. Postal cycling team for 27 days in April of 2001, as they prepare for Armstrong's third Tour attempt. The film is a very interesting look "behind the scenes" of a top racing team, but more than that, it's a great introduction just to the Tour de France or Lance Armstrong, but to the excitement of cycling as a whole.

This 52-minute documentary promises to take you truly behind the scenes of U.S. Postal, and that's exactly what it does. We see team meetings to discuss strategy (including criticism; these aren't staged), we ride in the car with the team director, Johan Bruyneel, we see the riders train and race. One moment that I particularly enjoyed was during one of the races, when we're seeing the television footage with Phil Liggett providing commentary. When the team car pulls up alongside Armstrong, Liggett remarks that he'd love to know exactly what Bruyneel is saying right then... and at that moment, the camera view switches to inside the car, and we get to hear exactly what advice Armstrong is getting. Behind the scenes, indeed!

While the overall focus is on Lance Armstrong's preparation for the Tour, Road to Paris never lets us forget that he's part of a team. We see exactly how a cycling team works together in a race, showing us how some riders are there for support (including things like carrying drinks and food from the team car to the leaders), while others are the leaders who have a chance at winning. We learn that the team has eggs in more than one basket: while Armstrong is the team's favorite for the Tour de France, George Hincapie is one of their strong men for the one-day Classics in the spring. What's more, we see how important tactics are within a race: getting the right man in a breakaway, knowing when to make the move, getting the riders in the right place at the front of the group, knowing how to use the support riders to protect the leaders.

We also see the extensive support network of the team: the mechanics, the massage specialists, even the man who ensures that the team has plenty of food and drinks while they're riding. The one person who's in charge of all this, the man who directs the team, is Johan Bruyneel, the "directeur sportif" or team director. He's the man who decides what races the team will enter, what the focus of their season will be, and how to prepare the team for its main goal: to win the Tour de France.

The documentary is reasonably well paced, weaving different aspects of racing and training together, and incorporating interviews with Armstrong, the other riders on the team such as George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton, and Vladislav Ekimov, team director Johan Bruyneel, and other cycle racing experts such as Jean-Marie LeBlanc, the director of the Tour de France, and Paul Sherwen, who provides analytical commentary for World Cycling Productions' race coverage.

While Road to Paris does a good job of providing an interesting look behind the scenes, it's not as informative as it could have been. What is Armstrong's actual training program like? (We see him on a couple of training rides, but this is only a part of his overall preparation.) What kind of training do the other riders on the team do, and how does their involvement differ from that of the "star" Armstrong? As U.S. Postal and Armstrong prepared to win the 2002 Tour de France over the course of the 27 days profiled in Road to Paris, a greater emphasis on the "why" and "how" rather than just the "what" of their preparation would have made for a more content-rich program. Road to Paris does a good job at what it sets out to do, but I think it's a case where a bit more ambition could have resulted in an even better film.

The DVD

Road to Paris is a Region 0 DVD, playable on any NTSC-compatible DVD player and TV.

Video

The picture quality in this documentary is quite good, especially considering that most of the footage is taken live, not staged at all, and is taken under less than optimal conditions (like being stuffed inside the team car during a race). The picture is clean and clear, with colors appearing natural and bright; contrast and detail aren't always perfect, but again, this is due to the "on the spot" nature of the documentary.

Road to Paris is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

Audio

The fairly straightforward soundtrack gets the job done here. The sound is satisfactory for the most part, with the various interviews of riders and officials coming across clearly. There's some interference from outside noise in the segments that take place inside the director's car, for instance, or in the bonus footage where Lance is interviewed while on a plane, and the music soundtrack tends to be a little overly loud.

Extras

Road to Paris includes 47 minutes of "bonus footage," which is best described as a series of extended interviews. An interview with Lance Armstrong on the massage table, as well as two sections covering training rides, offer extended versions of sections that are included in the main feature; fortunately, there's no repeated material. Another long section is an interview with Armstrong while he's on a plane flight, discussing various thoughts about racing and the team.

The DVD also contains profiles of each member of the U.S. Postal team: photo, vital statistics such as height, weight, and nationality, and text comments about various aspects of training and racing.

Final thoughts

One of the best aspects of Road to Paris is its excellent view into the larger world of cycling. The overall focus of the documentary is on U.S. Postal's preparation for the three-week-long Tour de France, but that preparation includes riding in several other European races, including a short four-day stage race and several important one-day Classic races. The documentary gives a great flavor of what Classics like Paris-Roubaix and Amstel Gold are like, and how they're different from the Tour. After watching Road to Paris, the next step for interested viewers is to watch some of the actual races: Paris-Roubaix, the Tour of Flanders, and others from World Cycling Productions. Road to Paris has enough intriguing behind-the-scenes insights that it will be of interest even to seasoned cycling fans, but the viewers who will enjoy Road to Paris the most are those who are interested in Lance Armstrong, the U.S. Postal team, or the Tour de France, and are looking for an interesting introduction. It's recommended.

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