This is fantastic film, probably the best sporting film I’ve seen. It follows the Telekom team, focusing mostly on Erik Zabel and Rolf Aldag, through the 2003 Tour de France. It’s not so much about the 2003 Tour as a race, more about how the Telekom team, riders and staff cope with demands and pressures of what’s involved with taking part.
Hell on Wheels reminds me of how I became captivated by Tour de France in the mid eighties, a travelling circus of colour sent against the rolling countryside and mountains of arguably one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It was like a story that unravelled over the summer, a different chapter every night after school on Channel 4. Lemond, Hinault and Dag Otto Lauritzen.
Occasionally the attention moves to a young German family as they follow the tour though the mountains and into the cafe’s, the daughter picks up a discarded water bottle, they shout at their friends across the road and discuss form over coffee. The human side to sport isn’t lost on the Telekom team either as their personalities are explored. The humour, camaraderie, pain and disappointment etched on their faces as they struggle to reason with the mental and physical pressure. The injuries visible through ripped lycra, the continuous worry about accidents or just simply being left behind.
The soundtrack binds everything together as the flashbacks to past tours give some historical context. To be fair, as a film maker they’d be something wrong if you couldn’t match up some Tour de France imagery with some music of some sort!
Everything about this film is beautiful, the scenery, the way it’s filmed, the soundtrack, the people. Everything.
Stunning and heartbreaking in equal measures, a must see.