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The Quest
 
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 8/8/2005
The Quest
 

The Quest
Redemption Through Victory

First announced at Interbike 2003, the film The Quest has been released on DVD.

The film by Spinning Wheel Productions fittingly founded in the Southern California's "Venice" near Hollywood, the center of film culture and production. Although the Venice of California is a distant location from the roads of Italy, it is perhaps destiny that a company situated in the "Venice of the West" would and could capture the passion of Italy for the Giro d' Italia.

Garzelli, Simoni, Popovych 2003 Podium

Greg St. Johns and his partner Jonathan West, both Hollywood film veterans have taken their expertise learned on the sets of Hollywood and their passion for cycling and as Jaime Nichols said in her articles after the announcement of the film, "delivered an intimate portrait of the world’s most thrilling sport."

The articles and interviews with the film makers are presented in two articles The Quest Part I and The Quest Part II in September 2003. Jaime's articles follow Greg St. Johns' personal quest to make the film and give an inside look at the making of the film and are highly recommended reading to understand the background of the effort by Greg St. Johns, Scott Montgomery and Cannondale Bikes to bring the concept to reality.

The film starts with an interview of Phil Ligget who once and for all sets aside the notion that the Giro is a race and its winners are any less the Champions when compared to the Tour de France. I heartily agree, unfortunately in the past the Tour has garnered the majority of press and TV coverage. The Quest goes one step further to dispel that forlorn belief. Phil Ligget performs as the journeyman commentator that he is, passionately describing the stage by stage race action during the film as the films narrator.

I must admit that I heavily anticipated this movie as many fans have. After watching it once, I just had to queue up the DVD player and watch it a few more times. You might find yourself doing the same thing.

When I started this review I was briefly tongue tied or in the parlance of writers "blocked." It is an admirable film in so many ways, how could I do it justice without seeming to have lost my critical bent as a reviewer? Quite honestly, the sport of cycling has so many great stories that is a pleasure to see one brought to the screen at this level of quality; its a winner at many levels. The production value, narration, sound, music and photography are flawless and compliment the action; each is seamless, technically nothing distracts the viewer from the experience.

An Epic Tale

The Giro of 2002 is an epic tale, as most Grand Tours are; it is filled with memorable characters, driven competitors, important moments, monuments and subplots. It is a war with a hero and crew set against the tides of fate seeking their destiny much like Jason on his quest for the golden fleece. The Quest more than communicates this epic battle, it presents a summary of its battles and motivation from the inside of the winning teams heart and soul.

Gilberto Simoni and Saeco Seek Vindication

The Quest is more than a intimate documentary of the rider from Palu Di Giovo, Italy, who started riding at age 14 to emulate his hometown hero Francesco Moser. It is as much about the Saeco/Cannondale team and how they intimately interact with a unity of purpose to win the Giro. Each member of the team, from the General Manager, Directeur Sportifs, soigneurs, masseuse, doctors, mechanics and riders are interviewed and shown in action doing what they do to support the goal of winning the Giro. One gets a sense of the unity and esprit of team that makes it possible for one rider and team to lead and win a demanding 21-day Grand Tour. It is the definitive look at the inside day to day operation of a pro team in a grand tour.

Cycling giants and Saeco brain trust Giuseppe Martinelli and Claudio Corti give a glimpse to building the team and tactics used in their interviews; a rare look into what plans and deceptions are played to win a grand tour.

To put The Quest into perspective it is the tale of a rider and his team Saeco seeking vindication and in some way vengeance for a tragedy the year before when Gilberto Simoni on his way to his second Giro victory was dropped from the Giro after doping allegations that were later dismissed and the Gibo was declared innocent.

The team was unfairly denied a start in the Tour de France that year and Gibo returned to racing in August and the Vuelta after the charges were cleared.  "My teammates missed out on doing well in the Giro and were stopped from riding the Tour. The Saeco president, Sergio Zapella, and team manager have put their faith in me and so I owe them a lot. I hope I can pay them back."

During the film Gibo comments on the personal hell of the year before. Gibo is less concerned with what some say and think; he more thoughtfully confident and calm in his integrity. One can't miss seeing in his eyes his quest for this victory at this Giro to silence his detractors and gain redemption. Simoni in an interview with Gazzeta January 2003: “They stole one year from me. What I lost nobody will give me back. That’s why this is an important year, the most important of my career. Nothing has to go wrong”.

Gibo on the Zoncolan

Monuments & Moments

Witness the coming of age of Allesandro Petacchi sweeping stage after stage, battling "Super Mario" and Robbie McEwen. Cipollini undeniably the sports greatest showman in the rainbow jersey of the world champion, fights wheel to wheel for stage wins in his chase for the Giro stage record of legend Alfredo Binda. The look of disbelief on Cipo's face when he is beaten by Allejet in the first stage is worth the price of the film.

Mario, the Lion King, can not be denied - he fights on undaunted; finally he in a one on one with McEwen the rainbow jersey wins and he seizes Binda's record. Sadly later we see the horror of a crash that determines Cipo's retirement from the race.

Stage 12 on the Monster Zoncolan see Marco Pantani in some of the last film of this climbing giant climbing as he once did attacking with all the power he once displayed. Il Pirate would finish 14th in this Giro marking what many hoped would be a return to winning. The film finishes with a dedication to Marco.

Pantani, Simoni, Casagrande, Garzelli, Popovych, Belli, Scarponi and Gonzalez battle to the top. Time and age are cruel companions and as one star rises often another star falls, young guns and top guns careers rise and fall on the slopes of the Monte Zoncolan.

The youngest rider and future winner of the Giro is 21 year old Damiano Cunego  - in the film there are several interviews you will have to watch to see what drives this young gun. Yaroslav Popovych in his second Giro battles his way to the podium as fellow young gun Damiano speaks of his hopes to test himself in future tours.

Greg St. Johns has also captured footage of the riders before the races singing together and celebrating their camaraderie. Because each days footage is intertwined with the meals and life of the Saeco team one sees the slow gain of physical exhaustion that the stages and effort are causing.

The Giro: a Love Affair to be Remembered

One of the greatest pleasures the film gave me was an insight into the heart and soul of Italian racing from the riders to the fans captured before the race as the riders sign autographs, during the stages and at the podium celebrations. The peloton has been extended from the riders to all of Italy as a members of a family. The passion is contagious. The Giro is a carnival of love and interaction between rider and fans, a passion play for the sport and spectacle of the beauty of Italy. For this alone The Quest receives high marks. It has moved the Giro to the top of my wish list of Grand Tours to see in person.

The Quest is a definite must have for any cycling video collection. It is a essential part of Giro history. The interviews of the riders are in Italian and are subtitled in English. I expect The Quest will become as popular with Italians and Italian speaking fans as it will amongst their English-speaking "cycling crazy" counterparts, as Fabio would say.

Gilberto and 2003 Giro Trophy

The good news is that you can now purchase it directly from the Spinning Wheel Productions today.

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

History

The following is a set of links to reports on the 2002 and 2003 Giros; others are in the review above. While you're waiting for the DVD to arrive you can refresh the events that led up to that epic Giro.

Daily Peloton Giro Hub pages:
Giro d' Italia 2002
Giro d' Italia 2003

Gilberto returned in 2002 as the defending champion: Saeco-Longoni Sport will have last year's Maglia Rosa Gilberto Simoni as its undisputed leader, as he rides in his quest for a second pink jersey. Beating his rivals to Milan in last year's edition in commanding fashion with a lead of over 7 minutes, Simoni also placed third in the two previous editions of the Giro leading up to his win. He has said that for him and his team, the Giro is "the only objective of the season."

Gibo's season has not been without its low points this year: a crash in stage two of this year's Setmana Catalana left him with a micro fracture in the knee, which forced him into a three week rest. Managing only a 28th place finish in last Saturday's GP Industria & Artigianato-Larciano, it seemed that his form was still a ways off, but he put in a stronger ride on Sunday at the Giro de Tosca, finishing with the leaders, and only 11 seconds off the winning time.

May 22, 2002 Stage 9: Reports of Simoni positive test.

May 24 Stage 11 Gilberto Simoni replied to the controversy, suspicion and doubts surrounding him in his usual style, winning the the mountain stage to Campitello Matese. After a terrible day yesterday Simoni he bounced back in just 24 hours showing an incredible mental strength. "It's been an terrible moment but this win pays me back, Simoni said. "I want to dedicate the stage win to my wife Arianna and my mum."

In the overall standings the Saeco-Longoni sport team leader moved up to third place overall, 3'15" behind Heppner. He promised to attack in the mountains, renewing his challenge to win the Giro for a second consecutive time.

May 25, 2002 Before the start of the 12th stage to Campobasso this morning, the Saeco-Longoni sport team has told rider Gilberto Simoni their decision to retire him from the 85th Giro d'Italia. All charges were dropped later in late July by the Italian government and the UCI.

 
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