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Film Review: The Quest
 
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 8/7/2005
Film Review: The Quest
 

"The Dolomites are as hard, or harder, than the Alpe d'Huez in the Alps...take the Zoncolan - I doubt they could even find a road that steep in France to run a race over." So starts the film The Quest, Phil Liggett commenting on the idea that the Tour de France is harder than the Giro.

Ably narrated by Mr. Liggett, The Quest is the story of the Saeco Team in the 2003 Giro d'Italia, the second Giro Simoni won after having been disqualified the year before, and which some believe should have been his third Giro win, not his second. This film not only follows the race that year, which was epic by various standards, but it is an intimate portrait of the Italian team that came to win a race, and did.


Photo courtesy Spinning Wheel Productions.

This was the Giro of changes and a most uncanny edition for Greg St. Johns, Russell Elder and Jonathon West of Spinning Wheel Productions to chronicle.

Cycling-mad Italy waits in breathless anticipation for the month of May, and whereas they witnessed a scandal-rocked 2002 edition, this year they were treated to an Italian spectacle. They would see Sprinter King and World Champion Mario Cipollini meet his match in fellow Italian Allesandro Petacchi. The Giro stage record El Rey Leone came to beat, Alfredo Binda's, stood agonizingly unbeaten for too many days as Cipo could not cross the line first. Finally having beaten it, an injured (and undoubtedly morale-wounded as well, courtesy of his team's Tour de France exclusion) Lion King retired from the race.

Garzelli was also coming back from a tainted 2002, and the film is dedicated to Il Pirata, Marco Pantani - this is the last time we saw him race. The youngest rider in the race was a certain Damiano Cunego, hesitant and full of hope. And a young protege of Ernesto Colnago, Ukrainian Yaroslav Popovych, fought his way onto the podium in Milano.

It had already been a solid comeback year for Saeco. But more than anything, here was a Giro in which Simoni attacked and attacked and attacked, showing just what kind of climber he is.

You are treated to a synopsis of each stage, including Stage Ten, the day that pundits thought Directeur Sportif Giuseppe Martinelli had made a horrible tactical mistake: Leonardo Bertagnolli attacked, and then Simoni bridged up to him with "too many" kilometers left to go... It was not a mistake, but a well-laid plan. The surprise was that no one could follow Simoni, and on that day, Gibo took over the Maglia Rosa from Garzelli, wearing it all the way to Milan. (Martinelli's answer to the press as to why Bertagnolli had gone up the road? An innocent "I don't know." Indeed.)

Yet, this movie, for its excellent job encapsulating a very exciting Giro, shows us also the heart of the Saeco Team. Interviews with the riders, mechanics, doctor, soigneurs, team director, Simoni's director and the team manager show just how closely a team needs to work in order to take on a race of this caliber. The daily routine is detailed from all angles - from how many team cars carry a spare bike for Simoni, to why the staff act almost as parents to the riders, every single detail taken care of for them.

There are extraordinary interviews - Simoni's best friend and training partner Bertagnolli, whose love and respect for his team leader is so apparent, the Saeco driver who has particular stature amongst the other teams' staff, the soigneur who knows the exact mental and physical condition of his riders by the feel of their muscles, a young Cunego riding his first three week race, old hand Polti man Fabio Sacchi, the appointed shepherd for the riders. The understanding with which Martinelli and Team Manager Claudio Corti handle their riders is patient, fatherly and wise beyond measure.

Then there is Gilberto Simoni. He chronicles his early years, falling in love with the bike and racing (spurred by the win of a man named Moser when Simoni was 13), his amateur racing and move to professional racing, a transition which he explains was difficult. In spite of a sometimes-expressed perception among tifosi that he is arrogant, here is a quiet and honest man who talks about his mistake in 2002, his primary and secondary motivation in this Giro, and his responsibility as leader to his team.


The team mechanics secretly put together a special TT bike for Simoni - they sent it off to be painted pink a few days before the final Time Trial. He never pre-rode it - they could only test it when he was warming up on it before the time trial. Photo courtesy Spinning Wheel Productions.


As a race fan who had never watched the Giro live until 2005, the race footage in The Quest is an extraordinary treat in itself, to see some of the best climbers in the world battle between themselves and against the mountains, the best sprinters flying like the wind, the incredible triumph and tragedy that is bike racing. As Phil Liggett says, "But this is Italy, where nothing is too difficult for a true champion to conquer."

Above it all, viewers will gain an extraordinary perspective on the work and detail required to participate in a Grand Tour. For that reason, The Quest is a film you will definitely want in your collection (if you haven't a collection, make this your start), and is also an excellent film with which to introduce your friends to the sport. It is available for purchase online at The Quest website here.

The Quest
Spinning Wheel Productions, presented by Cannondale
Running time: 1:44
http://www.thequestfilm.com

 
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The Quest

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