Best Tour de France footage ever filmed?

Here are some ‘rushes’ from the IMAX movie with the production name of Brainpower but which morphed into Wired to Win when it was released to IMAX cinemas last year.

The YouTube footage is just a couple of minutes, there’s nine minutes on the Quickrelease.tv podcast on iTunes.



The IMAX movie, as you’d expect, is larger than life and truly stunning. But it was distributed much later than first billed. Following the initial shooting in 2003 there had to be an extensive reshooting of scenes to accommodate the removal of Tyler Hamilton from the movie.

At the time Hamilton was embroiled in a drugs hearing, which he sadly later lost. Had he embarked on the same course of action as Floyd Landis – request for an open hearing, wiki-style posting of all hearing evidence on his website so experts could crawl all over it – the outcome may have been different. Well, perhaps not the outcome because as can be seen by the current dispute over fairness of the USADA arbitrators, these hearings are far from impartial. But Hamilton may have at least avoided the worst of the uninformed attacks on his case. It didn’t stand or fall on the chimera defence and it’s always worth reading the Chris Campbell dissent, the likes of which we may see again following the Landis hearing which starts Monday.

The rushes footage contains movie editing timecodes and an original score.

Wired to Win: Surviving the Tour de France is available to watch in a small number of IMAX cinemas worldwide. The wonderful Tour de France scenes were shot at the 2003 Tour de France. This was the year that, despite a cracked clavicle and eleven ground-down teeth, Tyler Hamilton came fourth.

It’s not a film about the Tour itself, it’s an exploration of how the brain works, and specifically, how the brain deals with pain, stress, and tactics. The film’s director, Bayley Silleck, said:

“We chose the Tour de France to show how the human brain works because behind every great athlete is a great mind.”

And these great minds are also great at blocking pain. Tyler Hamilton was always going to be the featured rider but when he broke his collarbone in a pile-up on the first stage, the movie-makers thought they would have to pack-up and go home. Hamilton decided to ride on; the bulky IMAX cameras continued to roll.

“The movie is about the human brain, but we chose the Tour as a backdrop because it has all the elements,” said Silleck

“It’s about the human mind, those intangible things we call willpower. How athletes make the difference between success and failure.”

Sillick believed he got some of the best-ever film footage of the Tour, thanks to the four IMAX cameras, one of which was remote-controlled and suspended from a helicopter.

In a movie press release from July 7th 2003, the film is said to explore “the extraordinary processes of the human brain by following world-class, professional cyclist, Tyler Hamilton as he trains and participates in the Tour de France.”

Fast forward to February 24th 2004 and Hamilton wasn’t mentioned in a new press release. Instead, Brain Power – now late – becomes the “dramatic story of pro-cyclists dealing with the stresses, dangers, and conflicts of the Tour de France.”

The film no longer has one central character:

“Brain Power will follow several Tour riders as they cope with pain in the high Alps, experience a “fight-or-flight” situation on a steep downhill switchback, struggle to maintain mental focus and wage a constant mental war between extreme exhaustion and their motivation to reach the finish line in Paris.”

The riders featured were Baden Cooke and Jimmy Caspar of the Francaise de Jeux. Caspar also crashed at the 2003 Tour de France.

More info here and here from the stories I did on BikeBiz.com.