Ride the Divide
Today’s movie documents the adventures of participants in the 2010 Tour Divide bicycle race. Well, if I’m honest, it turns out to be more about the adventures of a pair of documentary filmmakers attempting to make a documentary about the 2010 Tour Divide race, but that’s not bad either.
Having grown up in northern Montana, not too far from the continental divide, I was vaguely aware of the existence of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route which stretches from Banff, Alberta to the Mexican border at Antelope Wells, New Mexico. I was less aware of the annual, amateur, and largely informal Tour Divide race. While I’ve lived in the Midwestern flat-lands for over a decade now, and I was never particularly an outdoorsman, the northern Rockies still appear in the pictures of my dreams; therefore, I was intrigued by the chance to see a film about this race.
The film is full of beautiful scenery, and interesting characters but it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. The best part of the film is found in the first hour as well over a dozen riders, including Mike Dion, (one of the film’s producers), strike out from Banff heading south on a three-week ride to Mexico. Through the first few days of the race the riders are closely packed, enabling the vehicle-bound filmmakers time to seek out interesting points to film them on remote sections of trail.
Around the time the racers left Montana the film got less interesting. I suppose some of this was my personal bias, but I do think there’s a deeper problem than that. Around this point in the race, significant attrition amongst the riders began to set in, so there were fewer subjects for the film. Worse, the remaining riders became tremendously spread out.
The challenge as well as the appeal of the Tour Divide is that the trail is remote and the distances daunting, riders tend to spend most of their time alone and in the middle of nowhere. Since Ride the Divide‘s seems to have been filmed by a single crew motoring back and forth along the route the footage we see tends to be riders on the more settled portions of the route, and making stops at hotels, resturants, and grocery stores. There are plenty of cases where riders tell us about how they had a break-down (physical, mechanical, or emotional), but we don’t often actually see this happen.
It’s clear that a lot of skill went into the production of Ride the Divide, director Hunter Weeks does a great job of using graphics to understand exactly where along the trail a racer is at any given point. Unfortunately, the race’s scope proves to be a real logistical challenge that impacts the film’s quality. This is a movie that often fails the mantra of “show, don’t tell”, but at least it shows why that happens, and it’s a story worth telling.
The people are friendly, the scenery is fantastic, and the movie is Worth Seeing.