Since its first outing at the Cork Film Festival’s opening night (it was set to debut at SXSW, but alas, that was cancelled), The Racer has been cycling the festival circuit in a race to attract an audience outside of its specialist scope. Kieron J Walsh commands solid performances from his cast, as director of the biking film as much about the cogs in the mind as the sport itself.
The title of the movie points towards a focus and dissection of the pro-athlete’s mind: in this case the ageing Belgian cyclist Dom Chabol (played by an outstanding Louis Talpe). The year is 1998. Ireland is hosting the first three stages of the Tour de France and the experienced sportsman is readying himself for another stint among the domestiques (support riders). The role requires commitment, selflessness and endurance, all to let a cycling team’s sprinter win the glory and accolades. One can see where this one is going.
On the eve of the first race, Chabol is dropped only to be hastily reinstated when a teammate is banned for getting caught doping. The Belgian cyclist is brought back into the fold. However, his lingering self-doubt, combined with the sense that this is his final opportunity to be centre-stage, begins to tug at his cool, confident facade.
Talpe plays the role expertly, holding the viewers’ complete attention as they are absorbed with Chabol’s mental and physical struggle. Walsh keeps the audience attached to the protagonist – although, as he is overwhelmed by the intensity of the sport and a career fading away, the result is a suffocating experience at times. There’s enough drama injected into proceedings to make it stand out from notable cycling documentaries that have focused on doping released in recent years, such as Icarus. However, the appeal of this bruising journey might not extend beyond the sport psychology and cycling fanatics.
The Racer is released in select cinemas and digitally on demand on 18th December 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Racer here: