Halfway through 'Overcoming' it appears that Bjarne Riis, monosyllabic former Tour de France champion and management guru of Team CSC, is about to crack up. While his riders crash to the tarmac around him and others struggle for form, Riis's expression grows even more pained. Standing bemused in a hotel room, he looks close to losing it, as one of his backroom staff implores him to smile, just a little, despite all the stress of being in contention for victory in the 2004 Tour.
Jeremy Whittle, editor of Procycling, said:
"Few other cycling films have captured so accurately the controlled chaos of professional bike racing, particularly on the grandest stage of all, the Tour."
At one point, Riis says: "This team's fate probably depends a lot on me. But is it so terribly wrong that they become extras in my little show?"
Director Tomas Gislason shot this unforgiving and unique footage during the 2004 season and climaxes his film with a dramatic diary of the 2004 Tour that showcases the battle for supremacy between CSC's emerging star, Ivan Basso, and Lance Armstrong.
There are plenty of memorable moments in the film's 105 minutes: we see Basso learning to swim so that he can play a full part in CSC's military style training camp; Riis's frustration grows as Carlos Sastre, plagued by the death of his brother-in-law, struggles to find his best form; and there's Kurt-Asle Arvesen, the sprinter, continuing to race despite a series of brutal crashes that leave his skin raw and his body bruised.
Then there's the rivalry between CSC and Armstrong and his US Postal team. Gislason captures the moment when Armstrong mercilessly closes on Basso during the decisive Alpe d'Huez time trial and glares meaningfully at Riis as he overtakes the CSC team car. Earlier, relations seem more cordial, as Armstrong's team directeur, Johan Bruyneel and Riis agree to collaborate to control the racing during the Tour's opening stages.
But it's the relationship between Riis and Basso that is at the centre of the film. Watching the lithe Italian develop in confidence and stature as a team leader is a revelation and although he clearly feels in awe of Armstrong and his achievements, Basso emerges as the man most likely to win the Tour in the wake of the Texan's retirement. Jeremy Whittle.
'Overcoming' will be shown in the Procycling cinema at: