La Course en Tête
“We learn about Merckx the perfectionist, meticulously preparing his track bike in his immaculate workshop with glistening tools adorning the walls. We see him closely watching the mechanics of his Molteni team as they prepare his bike for another day in the Giro. We see him adjusting his saddle en route, which was always a Merckx trademark, whether on the final lap of the world championships or during a motor-pace session. He is always riding with indifference, that hard-earned nonchalance that sets champions apart from the rest. And we see him winning over and over again.” – Rouleur, issue 14.
The definitive documentary of the greatest cyclist yet to throw his leg over a crossbar. French filmmaker Joël Santoni’s 1973 classic forgoes dialogue, save for the occasional thoughts of Eddy Merckx’s wife, Claudine, and allows the images and score to do the talking.
The result of a dinner conversation with fellow film director Louis Malle, non-cycling fan Santoni threw himself headlong into the project, spending a year with the Belgian starting at the Vuelta.
“We had no preparation. I had no idea – I’d never even been to the Tour de France. I was a newcomer to it all.
“We had some difficult situations when we started filming. The car wasn’t really appropriate for going down descents trying to follow the race, and we nearly crashed. The director of the race asked us please not to kill anyone. So after a while we learned what we were doing and I loved it.” – Rouleur, issue 14.
La Course en Tête is now available on a double bill DVD with The Greatest Show on Earth – The Story of the 1974 Giro d’Italia here.