Director Jason Berry's film 24 Solo (web site) shows that no matter how extreme your sport is, there's someone out there taking it to the next level. 24 Solo focuses on the MTB discipline that makes others cringe: the 24 hour solo race. Chris Eatough had dominated his sport through six consecutive World Titles, so naturally the film picks up as Eatough attempts to acheive the Armstrongian mark of seven.
I don't know much about the world of mountain biking -- most of what I learned is from Berry's previous film, Off Road to Athens. But I couldn't pass up an opportunity to see cyclists in pain, so Al, Jill, and I all went to the premiere in Monterey during Sea Otter. We were treated to red-carpet entrances by the film's stars and makers. There were also plenty of other professional MTBers in attendance, including Alison Dunlap and Sam Shultz. Shultz and his family were seated behind us, so Al took advantage and plied Shultz for advice on how to race the sandy downhill section of the Sea Otter XC course -- don't use the front brakes, lift up the front end lightly, and use the rear brake as a rudder if you need to.
The first part of the film follows Eatough and his team manager Jon Posner through their training and early season races, including in far-off China. It also splices in interviews with fellow 24-hour competitors, Gary Fisher, Alison Dunlap, and others, all to establish the two important facts about the film: 24-hour racing is insane and Chris Eatough is really good. The DVD packaging features the quote, "This sport is so hard, you can't do it for a paycheck" (John Stamstad). This part of the film is fun, entertaining, and light, but the film really is about the race.
Copiously shot with an array of cameras, including a poor soul who had to follow with helmet cam, the film delivers with its coverage of the 24 Hours of Adrenalin 2005 World Solo Championships. After establishing that there really wasn't any equal to Eatough, the film was blessed with the sudden entrance of Craig Gordon from Australia. The new antagonist injected a new level of intensity and tension in the film that makes the race worth watching start to finish.
Seeing as most of what I know about mountain biking is from Berry's Off Road to Athens and 24 Solo, I am only left with those two films to compare. I prefer Off Road to Athens as there is more story to tell: 8 cyclists competing for the US Olympic Team across an entire season. 24 Solo was about one rider and one race. Both tell a great story and I'm happy that my goodie bag contained DVD copies of both for repeat enjoyment.
For those of you who have seen the film, you can read the cyclingnews summary of the race (PS: I hear the promoters are trying to get Craig Gordon back for a rematch).