Not everyone is happy to see ESPN’s Lance documentary dragging Armstrong back in the headlines. If you’re one of the many that think its time the spotlight shone on someone else, here’s 10 excellent documentaries to support instead.
Since the Texan monopolized the spotlight for so long, many legitimate athletes were overshadowed or didn’t get the attention they should have at the time. Thankfully, some filmmakers took the time to cover those athlete’s efforts. We’ve included documentaries that reach back into the Armstrong era, like the Geoff Kabush story as told in Working Dogs, along with more current selections.
Most riders will already know classics like A Sunday in Hell or Road to Roubaix, and the incredible Marco Pantani biopic, Accidental Death of a Cyclist. So, for the most part, we’ll try keep a little more current. There’s also Icarus, if you want to watch something about doping that doesn’t include the American. We’ve also left off fictional films like Breaking Away, The Flying Scotsman (based on the true story of Graeme Obree), Quicksliver, and Premium Rush.
10 Documentaries to watch instead of Lance
Wonderful Losers: A Different World
An intimate and emotional look at riders like Canadian Svein Tuft whose stories impact professional cycling but often go about their jobs outside the spotlight and headlines of their star teammates.
Half the Road: The Passion, Pitfalls, & Power of Women’s Professional Cycling
Half the Road explores the lack of financial sponsorship and media attention facing women’s cycling. Directed by Kathryn Bertine, it’s an insightful view into the highs and lows of fighting for equity in a male-dominated sport.
Geoff Kabush has been a major force in Canadian mountain biking for decades. When Sam Smith’s 2014 feature on the Olympian was released, the B.C.-born and raised racer was already 20 years into his career. Now, in 2020, the veteran campaigner has stepped away from World Cup racing but is still going strong at marathons, stage races, and the occasional enduro. Working Dogs pivots around 2010 mountain bike world championships at Mont-Sainte-Anne, Que. but delves much deeper into Kabush’s career than a single day at the races.
Slaying the Badger
Ok, so this pre-Armstrong era story of Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault isn’t new but hear us out. It’s also part of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. And, if there’s one rider whose reputation suffered at the hands of Armstrong, its Greg Lemond. Slaying the Badger dives into the rivalry between teammates Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond at the 1986 Tour de France.
This 2010 documentary focuses on Team Columbia-HTC at the 2009 Tour de France. It was a rather good year for the team, with Mark Cavendish setting a British record for most stage wins in one year. George Hincapie was on the team that year, but it’s Cav’s sprinting that’s the main focus.
I Just Want to Ride – Lael Wilcox and the 2019 Tour Divide
Alaskan endurance cyclist Lael Wilcox has steadily grown a following by focusing on the world beyond professional racing, and by being a total badass. At gravel events, multi-day endurance events and bikepacking routes, Wilcox has been casually dominating. Having already set the fastest women’s time at the Tour Divide, Wilcox set her sights on the overall record in 2019. I Just Want to Ride tells that story.
All For One
All For One tells the story of the first five years of the GreenEDGE team, now racing as Michelton-Scott. While taking a different, more human approach to racing, the team fights for its place on the WorldTour.
Trek’s documentary Going In tracks the Madison, Wisc. brand’s mountain bike team through the 2019 season. Going In features Canadian’s Emily Batty, Ethan Shandro and his father Andrew Shandro, alongside the team’s international cast including Jolanda Neff, Evie Richards and gravity racer Kade Edwards.
Pure Sweet Hell
Shot between 2002 and 2004, Brian Vernor’s Pure Sweet Hell captures a nascent U.S. cyclocross scene on the verge of a period of radical growth and popularity. The community was tight-knit and devoted, and about to attract a boom in popularity across the continent. If you missed this classic when it came out Vernor recently made the full, 58-minute documentary available for free on Vimeo.
Off Road to Athens
In the leadup to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens the United States had a strong time of riders. The nation that helped start mountain biking, though, had very limited spots to enter the cross country race. Off Road to Athens follows the country’s top pros as they compete for those spots. Allison Dunlop, Susan Haywood, Mary McConneloug, Shonny Vanlandingham on the women’s side, and Jeremiah Bishop, Adam Craig, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Todd Wells on the men’s.