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Blood Sweat + Gears (DVD Review)

13 Oct, 2009 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 10/20/09
First Run
Sports Documentary
$29.95 DVD
Not rated.

No sport has dealt with the scourge of performance-enhancing drugs more than professional bicycle racing and its marquee event, the Tour de France.

Unlike the relative indifference toward steroid use in Major League Baseball, performance-drug use in Europe is a criminal offense that ruins reputations and lives. Floyd Landis, stripped of his 2006 Tour victory for elevated testosterone levels, suffered a subsequent divorce and dramatic loss of income. Seven-time champ Lance Armstrong continues to thwart allegations he cheated after coming back from testicular cancer in 1999.

Against this backdrop, former professional racer Jonathan Vaughters created the Garmin-Slipstream cycling team intent on earning a spot and competing successfully in the Tour without drugs and thereby renewing the sport’s good name.

Filmmaker Nick Davis (Jack: The Last Kennedy Film), who cut his teeth filming MLB videos for ESPN and had never seen a bicycle race, spent a year with Garmin documenting how much professional cycling is a team sport requiring incredible individual sacrifice.

The film follows cerebral British leader David Miller, who is making a comeback after being suspended two years for drug use; aging Swede Magnus Backstedt facing his last season; improbable Olympic hopeful Mike Friedman, affectionately dubbed “meatball” for his svelte appearance; former world champion Danny Pate’s imploding marriage due to the narcissist demands of the sport; and Illinois native Christian Vande Velde, who ends up an unsung hero by finishing fourth in the Tour.

Blood Sweat + Gears offers plenty to both the hardcore fan and cycling novice. Worth checking is a special feature highlighting the circus-like atmosphere of the Tour de France.   

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