As a sport, cycling has experienced the ups and downs that come with increased drugs testing, with some athletes falling victim to the adoption of punishments of greater severity. Only through hard work and determination will you truly achieve your goals, and this motto is prevalent in the life and training of an athlete, none more so than a professional cyclist. One such contender who experienced the strains and successes of the sport is David Millar, a Scottish former professional road racing cyclist known for his Tour De France achievements and his ban after using performance-enhancing drugs. Time Trial documents the sportsman’s return to the roads, recording his despair at the discovery that at 37, he may no longer have the ability to make the team for his final Tour De France.
“We suffer, just so that we can suffer more.” A poignant statement that opens up an alternate dimension to the feature, suggesting that what you are watching is far more than just one man’s story about his declining ability. It is a study into the psychological and physical extremes that elite athletes subject their wellbeing and bodies to in an attempt to satisfy a craving for glory. Filmed on GoPros, video cameras and professional equipment, this film puts us in the saddle next to Millar, the chattering of gears and chains conversing with each other as lingering scenes of tranquillity subtract from the strenuous pain and burning sensation of an uphill climb.
Through the use of “in your face” photography and very little soundtrack other than ringing undertones, director Finlay Pretsell creates a therapeutic auditory and visual experience, in which Millar’s competitive struggles are ingrained into every pocket of the screen, maintaining a tone that is both relaxed and complex. In an interview the filmmaker explained that he “wanted to capture something that couldn’t be seen on television, with the key being it is a bit messy and uncomfortable to watch,” and this is certainly the case in this documentary. With scenes that you may never have witnessed before (most notably verbal and physical exchanges between rider and team car), trepidation is infused with the rhythmic anticipation that comes with competition, the two blending to create a really peculiar concoction, but one that is very welcome when in the right mood and mindset.
Time Trial is absolutely a film for fans of the sport and of Millar himself, delving ever deeper into the mind of the rider and presenting a relatable in-depth exploration into the psychology behind what makes cycling such an addictive thrill.
Time Trial is released in select cinemas on 29th June 2018.
Watch the trailer for Time Trial here: