The Hard Road Premiere
Oakley Interplanetary Headquarters, Irvine, California
8 March 2003
Okay, so maybe I'm not with it, but the last thing I expected when we drove
up to the hilltop Oakley Interplanetary Headquarters was a building with huge
spikes protruding from the exterior walls; it looked like a cross between a
fortress and a galactic cruiser. The entrance looked like...well, I don't know -
see for yourself.
The surprises continued on entering the lobby. I spied the visitor chairs
against the wall; full-on F-16 jet fighter pilot seats, which I of course
mistook for something else. I'm sure I didn't make any friends of the people
sitting in them when I said, "Oh look, electric chairs!"
Well, I think they look like electric chairs...
So this was Oakley headquarters - a huge, dimly-lit lobby that looked like a
dungeon but with a Formula race car shell on the far wall and a nicely polished,
full size torpedo mounted on the floor. Right. But the place does kind of grow
on you...Anyway, the appointed time arrived and we filed through heavy metal
doors into the film room at the far end of the lobby. Aside from the
Borg-looking speaker's podium, the normal film room was normal. Phew.
Here's the Daily Peloton's college professor Locutus looking
right at home
The Hard Road Review
The Hard Road did not resemble the Oakley setting in any way, however.
It is a full length documentary narrated by Keith David (who plays the CIA
Director in the newly-released film Cody Banks), a tale of the 2001 NRC
race season and the NetZero team.
The Hard Road is very clever on many levels, which I believe will
satisfy long-standing race fans as well as absolute newbies. Not only does the
film introduce the newly formed team of six rookies and two seasoned
professionals (Graeme Miller and Jamie Paolinetti), but walks the viewer through
what a pro team does and why. With this foundation you move forward, learning
more about the team members and how they approach each competition, their race
strategy and how it plays out in an absolute ton of excellent racing footage
from across the United States: The Shelby Crit, the gnarly Athens Twilight,
Manhattan Beach and the First Union Cycling Series, to name a few. The aerial
footage of the US Pro Manayunk Wall climbs is stellar, not to mention the
absolute perfect view of Fred Rodriguez's stunning winning move. For the race
footage alone (which is complimented all through by David's excellent race
commentary) this film is worth it.
One thing that Paolinetti said was a real trick to capture, but which he did,
was the speed of racing - being able to really show it on the screen. And he
also captures another key aspect; the amount of grueling physical work that is
pro cycling. For example, you see the team have their asses handed to them on a
plate early in the First Union week - they have already ridden and trained hard
in preparation, and know they have come to ride in the "big league," but... He
also demonstrates this in another particularly unique way that was my favorite
part of the film.
On another level, this documentary is about struggles, choices and lessons -
who's selected for each race and why, who does the work and who is the
designated rider; why they succeed or fail - both for the team and for the
individuals. It has the "small," inside stories of dedication and perseverance
that are not at all small - the man who supports his brother, enabling him to
ride full time; the rider who works 12 hour shifts and then training virtually
every other minute (and whose wife's friends do not all know she is married
because they have never met him). Or the young Aussie from a family of cyclists
who comes to the US to try his luck, or the rider who should be in the hospital
after crashing headlong into a curb but who rides the next day's race instead.
The film is not always "comfortable" - Paolinetti does not pull any punches -
and at times it is very funny, but he succeeds precisely because this is the
way to show pro cycling - up close and personal.
So here's what I think about The Hard Road: Not only does it give
die-hard racing fans a thoroughly inside look at a pro team and a
season's worth of killer US racing, but I believe it will open doors to new
cycling fans - in an hour and a half they know enough about pro cycling
to want more.
Speaking to Paolinetti's mother after the film, she said she'd brought a
friend with her to the premiere who knew absolutely nothing about cycling. When
the film was finished, the friend insisted that Mrs. Paolinetti help her learn
more; such was her new-found excitement for the sport after watching the film.
That is exactly how I think it will be received by new audiences, and for you
seasoned fans, I recommend you not miss the opportunity to see it.
More The Hard Road Reviews!
Vaughn Trevi, Ryan Barrett and Locutus
Thanks to Oakley for the exterior shot.