Movie Reviews
The Very Best Bike Movies

La Course en Tête Cover La Course en Tête

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Long before Lance, another bicycle racer was known by his first name: Eddy Merckx.

Despite Lance’s accomplishments, Eddy may still be the greatest racer of all time. He dominated the Tour (1969-74) even more than Lance did. Although he “only” won five times, Eddy still holds the record for stage wins (34) and days in yellow (96).

More importantly, Eddy’s domination of professional bike racing extended well beyond the Tour. He won the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana, as was well as several World Championships and other important events. In La Course en Tête you see Eddy winning – from mountain to velodromes – in France, Italy, Spain and his native Belgium, as well as at the Olympics.

The beauty of this unusual film, however, is not the celebration of handsome Eddy’s victories. Rather, it’s the depiction of European bicycle racing before Lance & Co. modernized the Tour by transforming the riding into a science and the event into a commercial enterprise. This film depicts a simpler time, when Tour riders trained without the benefit of computers and raced without the benefit of two-way radios.

How innocent were those times? Well, helmets were virtually unknown; racers raided cafes along the ride for free bottles of beer; and the night before each stage, friends and family made hundreds of little sandwiches for their rider.

La Course en Tête also depicts how fanatical the fans were. They threw flowers, served drinks, and touched and kissed the riders. At the end of the day they sought autographs and gave advice. The crowds pressed so close and jumped onto the course so often that the Tour resembled the Running of the Bulls at Pamplona.

A lack of narration lets the action speak for itself. Buy a copy of this film for repeat viewings. It’s so full of emotional, hilarious and bizarre scenes that each time through you’ll see more things, such as racers drinking wine, repairing bikes, dressing wounds and peeing – all while biking.

Title: La Course en Tête
Year Released: 1974
Duration: 110 minutes
Language: French
Bike Content: 10/10 wheels

Posted by Greg Borzo on 09/03 at 10:11 PM