Following the 2009 Tour de France largely through the eyes of riders and staff of the HTC-Columbia team, Chasing Legends is an entertaining way to spend an hour and a half in the company of Mark Cavendish, George Hincapie, Rolf Aldag, Brian Holm and other Tour stars and their support crew.
It’s not a new concept; Hell on Wheels did much the same for the 2003 Tour with T-Mobile. But where that film was laced with dark humour as T-Mobile hit disaster after disaster, Chasing Legends is a much more upbeat affair as Cavendish clocks up win after win.
The 2009 Tour didn’t go all HTC’s way, though, and as well as jubilation we see the disappointment and frustration that went with Hincapie failing to get the yellow jersey by just three seconds; Cavendish being eliminated from the green jersey contest after being relegated and young Tony Martin losing to the older, more experienced Juan Manuel Garate after a valiant breakaway on Mt Ventoux.
What comes across most strongly is the depth of the bonds between team members, the camaraderie that comes from living, eating, working and riding together. It’s a stunning portrayal of a team at the top of their game – what, psychologist Bruce Tuckman called the ‘performing’ stage. And perform they do, with all of France as their stage.
France itself is the perennial star of the race and there are plenty of loving, spectacular shots of the landscapes that make the Tour both beautiful and brutal. Except for the archive footage the whole movie is shot in high-definition, which makes catching a cinema showing a must (as UK readers can this Thursday, October 21), or waiting for the Blu-Ray version if you have the home theatre to do it justice.
There are many stories in the Tour de France, and Chasing legends doesn’t just focus on HTC’s. Saxo Bank’s Jens Voigt gets plenty of air time both before and after his disastrous stage 16 crash, and steals the show with his straightforwardness, humour and sheer grit. Eddy Merckx helps put the Tour in historical context, helped by archive footage from the Tour’s long history and commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen provide some narration and insight from their decades of experience at the Tour.
But the final word must go to Cavendish. Whether he’s talking about himself, his mighty, supportive team or sprinters in general, there’s an unmistakable ring of truth when he says, “You know that thing in your head that says ‘You really shouldn’t be doing this’? Well, we don’t have that.”
Chasing Legends screens for one night only at 52 cinemas around the UK at 8pm on Thursday October 21, followed by a live Q&A with Mark Cavendish, Phil Liggett and director Jason Berry. For a full list of venues see chasinglegends.com/film_tour