Okay IJM readers and staff, I challenge each of you to the most excessively exciting bike race on the planet. All you need is a sturdy bike, helmet, water supply, $290 (pending lottery success), transportation to Leadville, Colo., and guts.
That’s it. For $290 and an entry ticket, you will be allowed to bike 100 miles from Leadville through quaint rocky paths and sheer exhilarating inclines up to the 12,570 foot top of Columbine Mine. You will be able to feel the wind wisp through your hair as you cascade carefully down precipitous rutted gullies with an inspiring crowded community of over 1,000 other cyclers. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, burning heat or freezing cold.
And you will be filmed!
The 100 mile highest-altitude endurance mountain bike competition, Race Across the Sky, is the monster of all biking races. As noted in the news report before this film’s release, Lance Armstrong won it last year in 6 hours, 28 minutes and 50 seconds.
But this year, overcoming body-punishing physical sacrifice, a tortuous flirtation with death, and a strength-sapping vertical climb, handsome Levi Leipheimer beat the icon with a time of 6:25:21.
However, “Race Across the Sky 2010” pays scant heed to who’s winning and losing. Instead, it showcases the 100-mile race as a marathon therapy session for those bikers out to prove that they are better than they think they are and can do more than they think they can.
Every participant has a story to tell.
The blind guy, Eric Weihenmayer, who is just back from summiting a 20,000 foot mountain in Nepal, is competing on a tandem bike with his extreme adventure partner. He’s out to prove that blindness doesn’t have to hold him or anybody else back.
The cheery woman with MS is proving she’s still a competitive force in the game of life. Don’t count her out!
A woman with mental illness, out from an institution one week ago with a debilitating mental disorder, is going to prove she has the guts, strength and will to move forward. The discipline and adrenaline rush of the race will encourage her in life.
Then there was the husband who lost his young wife last year to a long battle with a progressive illness.
These contestants’ pain from life was palpable, but they were determined to overcome, to beat life’s stacked deck and prove they had some control over life — through personal power.
Four times as many people apply to ride this challenging, dangerously steep, rocky race than are accepted. Once in, if your time is too slow you are turned away half-way through and denied the opportunity to finish. Too slow means you’d be biking as dark shadowed the trail. It would be a one-way ticket to life’s end to navigate the rocky, gutted mountain trail without clear visibility. It’s enough to survive in the daylight.
As the blind man’s partner warned him as they crested on a long stretch with a right pitch down off the mountain, “If we fall, you better lean to the left.”
Was this film any good? Yes.
And IJM, I’m challenging you. I’m just 5 feet tall and an aging 61. Can you beat me? Come on, who’s in?
From Citizen Pictures
Released: Limited release Nov. 4 and Nov. 9 through Fathom Events
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Follow Bev Questad on Twitter at http://twitter.com/questad.