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10 Best Cycling Documentaries To Watch

Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a casual enthusiast, these cycling documentaries offer a captivating glimpse into the diverse and compelling world of cycling, where every turn of the pedal spins a story of determination, camaraderie, and the pursuit of excellence.


Best Cycling Documentaries

In each revolution of the crank, a new chapter unfolds, revealing the diverse landscapes, characters, and emotions that make the world of cycling a rich and cinematic canvas.

On a personal note, I have lived in Amsterdam for 13 years where I cycle everywhere, even from city to city. Whenever I travel I regularly rent or buy bicycles to get around the areas I’m in. I love cycling!


A Sunday in Hell (1976)

A Sunday in Hell is a classic in the genre of cycling documentaries and is often considered one of the greatest sports documentaries ever made. The title refers to the notorious Paris-Roubaix one-day professional cycling race held annually in France, known for its challenging and gruelling course, including sections of rough cobblestone roads.

The documentary provides an in-depth and immersive look at the 1976 Paris-Roubaix race, capturing the intensity, drama, and strategy involved in one of the most demanding races in professional cycling.

The film follows cyclists and their teams navigating the treacherous course, facing obstacles like mud, rain, and the punishing cobblestone sections. It effectively conveys the harsh conditions of the race and the determination of the cyclists to conquer the challenges posed by the course.

The documentary has become a cult classic among cycling enthusiasts and sports documentary aficionados. It provides a unique perspective on the world of professional cycling and the dedication required to compete in such demanding races.

Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist (2014)

Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist explores the life and career of Italian professional cyclist Marco Pantani, who was one of the most celebrated and successful riders in the late 1990s.

Marco Pantani gained widespread recognition after winning both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in 1998, a rare achievement known as the “double.” However, his career took a tragic turn as he faced doping allegations and was disqualified from the 1999 Giro d’Italia. Pantani struggled with personal and professional challenges, and his life took a dark turn.

The title, “The Accidental Death of a Cyclist,” refers to Pantani’s death in 2004, which was officially ruled as an accidental overdose of cocaine. The documentary delves into Pantani’s rise to fame, his battles with doping accusations, and the circumstances surrounding his untimely death.

The film combines archival footage, interviews with people close to Pantani, and a reflection on the broader issues of doping in professional cycling. It provides a nuanced look at the complexities of Pantani’s life and the challenges faced by professional cyclists during that era.

Le Ride (2016)

Le Ride is a unique cycling documentary that retraces the route of the 1928 Tour de France on vintage bicycles.

The documentary follows Phil Keoghan and his friend Ben Cornell as they attempt to recreate the challenging and gruelling journey of the original 1928 Tour de France. Their endeavour is particularly notable because they use bicycles from the same era, facing the same conditions and challenges that the cyclists in the 1928 race experienced.

The 1928 Tour de France was an exceptionally difficult race, and “Le Ride” explores the physical and mental endurance required to complete such a demanding course. The film combines elements of adventure, history, and sports, providing a unique perspective on both the world of professional cycling and the cultural context of the late 1920s.

As Keoghan and Cornell pedal through the French countryside, the documentary also delves into the history of the original race, introducing viewers to the cyclists of 1928 and the obstacles they faced. “Le Ride” is not just a cycling adventure but also a historical exploration of the sport and the individuals who helped shape its legacy.

If you’re a fan of historical cycling documentaries or stories of adventure and endurance, “Le Ride” is a great film for you. It combines elements of sports and history, offering a captivating look at the challenges and triumphs of cycling in a bygone era.

North of Nightfall (2018)

North of Nightfall is centred around a group of mountain bikers who embark on an expedition to the uninhabited Axel Heiberg Island in the Arctic Circle. The riders featured in the documentary include Darren Berrecloth, Cam Zink, Carson Storch, and Tom Van Steenbergen, among others.

The film captures the riders as they explore the remote and challenging terrain of Axel Heiberg Island, facing extreme weather conditions, breathtaking landscapes, and the unique challenges that come with mountain biking in such an isolated and harsh environment.

The riders are not only seeking the thrill of conquering uncharted territory but also looking for the opportunity to push the boundaries of their sport. North of Nightfall showcases the beauty of the Arctic landscape and the technical skills required for extreme mountain biking.

The documentary also explores the environmental impact of such expeditions and the importance of preserving these pristine, untouched areas.

This is one of my favourite cycling documentaries for adventure.

Time Trial (2017)

Time Trial provides an intimate and immersive look into the world of professional cycling, focusing on the career of British cyclist David Millar. Directed by Finlay Pretsell, the film follows Millar during the last years of his professional cycling career.

David Millar was a prominent cyclist who faced both triumphs and setbacks during his career. He was initially known for his successes, including stage wins in the Tour de France, but his career took a turn when he was suspended from the sport in 2004 for doping violations.

Time Trial captures Millar’s journey as he makes a comeback after serving his suspension and contends with the physical and mental challenges of professional cycling.

The documentary provides a raw and unfiltered portrayal of the sport, offering a glimpse into the physical and psychological toll of competitive cycling, particularly the individual time trial discipline. The film also explores Millar’s reflections on his career, the changing landscape of professional cycling, and his personal growth.

Icarus (2017)

Icarus starts out as an exploration of the impact of performance-enhancing drugs in amateur cycling but takes an unexpected turn into a broader investigation into state-sponsored doping in Russia.

Bryan Fogel, an amateur cyclist, initially sets out to examine the effects of doping on his performance in the Haute Route, a gruelling amateur cycling race. To do so, he enlists the help of Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, a Russian scientist and head of the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow.

However, as Fogel and Rodchenkov work together, the film takes a dramatic turn when Rodchenkov becomes a key whistleblower, revealing the extent of state-sponsored doping in Russian sports, particularly during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Icarus sheds light on the elaborate doping schemes orchestrated by the Russian government and explores the broader implications of doping on the integrity of sports. The film received widespread acclaim and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2018.

The title Icarus refers to the Greek myth of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun with wings made of feathers and wax. The story is often seen as a cautionary tale about hubris and the consequences of overreaching.

Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story (2014)

Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story provides a detailed and critical examination of the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong, one of the most celebrated and controversial figures in the history of professional cycling.

Lance Armstrong achieved unprecedented success by winning the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005. His story was not only one of athletic achievement but also of overcoming testicular cancer and establishing the Livestrong Foundation, which raised awareness and funds for cancer research.

However, Armstrong’s reputation took a major hit when he was stripped of his Tour de France titles in 2012 following an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

The investigation revealed a systematic and sophisticated doping program within Armstrong’s cycling teams. The cycling documentary delves into the details of Armstrong’s career, the doping allegations, and the subsequent fallout.

Stop at Nothing features interviews with key individuals involved in Armstrong’s career, including former teammates, journalists, and anti-doping officials. It paints a comprehensive picture of the complexities surrounding Armstrong’s success, his aggressive tactics against those who questioned him, and the ultimate consequences of his actions.

The Stars and the Water Carriers (1973)

The Stars and the Water Carriers is a classic out of these cycling documentaries. Directed by Jørgen Leth, a Danish filmmaker, the documentary provides a cinematic exploration of the 1973 Giro d’Italia, one of the three Grand Tours in professional cycling.

The film captures the essence of the Giro d’Italia, showcasing the beauty of the Italian landscape and the challenges faced by cyclists as they navigate the various stages of the race.

The title, “The Stars and the Water Carriers,” alludes to the distinction between the star riders, who compete for victory, and the water carriers (domestiques), who play a supporting role by assisting the team leaders.

This cycling documentary is regarded as a classic in the genre and has been praised for its cinematography and its ability to capture the drama and emotion of the Giro d’Italia. It provides an insider’s view of the sport, allowing you to experience the intensity, strategy, and camaraderie that define professional cycling.

Tour de France: Unchained (2023)

Tour de France: Unchained is not a documentary in the traditional sense but is a docu-series following the Tour de France.

In stages, it follows the riders across the entire event of the Tour de France giving you an in-depth look at it. It’s also one of the more recent cycling documentary options for you to watch.

Riding Bikes with the Dutch

I can’t help but add this one here at the end as having lived in Amsterdam for 13 years, I love it. It’s one of my favourite cycling documentaries.

Delve into the cycling culture of the Netherlands, where bikes are an integral part of daily life. This documentary takes you on a journey through the bike-friendly streets of Amsterdam and beyond, exploring how cycling is deeply woven into the fabric of Dutch society.


Cycling

These cycling documentaries, like well-worn paths, invite you to embark on a compelling voyage that extends beyond the handlebars.

In the pulsating rhythm of rubber meeting asphalt, cycling transcends the mere act of pedalling; it becomes a journey of passion, perseverance, and unparalleled human connection.

For more on cycling have a look at my article about the best cycling routes in Amsterdam.


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