Saturday, November 29, 2008

Race Across America DVD's 1982-1986

Once upon a time, the Race Across America was worthy of a two hour special on Wide World of Sports every year from 1982-1986. The RAAM organization has put the original ABC Wide World of Sports docudramas of the Great American Bike Race, the precursor of RAAM in 1982 and the RAAM events of 1983-1986 on DVD. For $29.99 for 7 1/2 hours of RAAM coverage, you can't find any better deal available for the endurance junkies in your life.

1985---> Jonathan "Jock" Boyer the first American rider of the Tour de France decided to take on the ultracyclists and embarrass them. Michael Secrest takes the place of the traditional ultracyclist in this battle. The footage of him in his small apartment in Phoenix playing opera music riding like a monk showed his focus and intensity. During the entire show, Jim Lampley describes the action with the soundtrack to the film Halloween in the background which builds tension to the race between Boyer and Secrest. Pete Penseyres, winner of 1984 RAAM, was saddled up in a support vehicle in 1985 working as crew chief for his brother Jim, a single leg amputee from Vietnam. Lon Haldeman was a non-factor in this years race. Michael Shermer is shown in 3rd place fighting the arrogance of Boyer as he moved East. Boyer is shown marveling how outrageous it was the Secrest was sleeping on the ground! "Were not cavemen..this is America" Boyer says as he rides down the road. The battle between Secrest and Boyer is dramatized with amazing skill and Lampley is fantastic as usual describing the epic battle as they rode between the back corridors of Arkansas. ABC won an emmy for this work and it is not surprising as they did a great job in dramatizing the race between the two road warriors. "If you have enough willpower.. and you want something bad enough.. you can get your body to do anything...." Jonathan Boyer. Boyer turned into an ultramarathon cyclist, pushing caution to the wind when he realized he had no choice but to push all day and night without stopping in order to beat Secrest. The 1985 RAAM had the fiercest competition and drama of all 5 years in the series.

The inaugural Great American Bike Race in 1982 is the second best of the documentaries. Lon Haldeman took off and never looked back so their was really no exciting race to watch. However, we get to witness the classic race between Michael Shermer, Lon Haldeman, John Marino, and John Howard which is done with great style and poignancy by Jim Lampley and Diana Nyad.

In the 1983 edition they changed the name to Race Across America. Lon Haldeman was still untouchable and ran away from the beginning.

There is no better ultra endurance athlete documentaries around. If somebody would release the 1980's Western States 100 Wide World of Sports DVD's that might possibly compare with this.

2 comments:

UltraRob said...

It's such a shame that RAAM doesn't get coverage any more. Just putting a camera on some of the crews have more drama than some of the reality TV shows.

Chris O'Keefe said...

Lampley was ahead of his time and really was committed to the stories he found in RAAM. I have heard interviews with him where he considers his RAAM work some of the most interesting and rewarding of his career. He was championed getting these stories heard and we owe alot to him for it. I would love to see RAAM get some of its new stories heard. The Allen Larsen documentaries are well worth watching.