Contributed by Leslie Reissner
This is the idea behind Liz Hatch: Come Ride With Me a recent DVD produced by CycleFilm, better known for their reconnaissance films of European gran fondo rides. I am unaware of any other films on the market that focus on a female cycling pro as this one does.
The route chosen for this 48 minute production is in the San Francisco area. I rode much of the same route in 2004 myself and the scenery is stunning.. In the film, Ms. Hatch, then with the Vanderkitten Racing Team, chats with director Markus Neuert as he drives and she rides alongside. The route climbs the famous Mt. Tamalpais (the “Mt. Tam” of mountain bike fame) and takes us along the Pacific coast. Several times she stops for a break and speaks to the camera about herself and her profession. She goes into her local bike shop, and pops into a convenience store for some food (although she has a hankering for barbeque more than granola bars). The tone of the film is quite casual, a training ride that is not near the limit.
Liz Hatch looks great on her bike, with her matching team kit. She is comfortable on the big climb (making a disparaging comment about her 59 kilo “fat carcass”) and is really fast on the coastal segment. But what impressed me were her comments about what cycling, and racing, means to her. It seems she was a wild party girl and on a downward spiral at the age of 24. She was a big fan of cycling and the death of Marco Pantani made her look critically at her own life, shake off her depression and launch herself into a career as a pro racer. It is clear that she loves riding, although considering the beauty of the surroundings in this DVD this is nothing to wonder at!
Check out the first First Preview.
Cycling, as Liz Hatch says in the film, is not in the Big 5 of American sports. She does not go on to point out the obvious: men’s cycling is not in the Big 5. Women’s cycling is pretty much invisible and, in fact, it is hardly to be seen in Europe either. It is hard to be a star in a sport that nobody much cares about. Her fellow Texan, Lance Armstrong, like him or not, made a lot more people interested in cycling because of his outsized personality as well as accomplishments in the peloton. Liz Hatch understands the art of self-promotion and she even calls herself being “a product” as part of her job. Critics have bemoaned the attention she has gotten for her looks rather than her racing results but in a sport with no profile at all it is unlikely that she has taken much publicity from other more accomplished racers. Glamour sells and in a sport that girls avoid because of its perceived dorkiness this may in fact be helpful.
It certainly takes some self-confidence to become a pro racer but Liz Hatch does not come across as arrogant but as a sensitive and sympathetic person. I think for someone to become a professional at 26 is difficult in a sport so particularly unforgiving. She talks at times about wondering what she is doing, the difficulties the sport imposes on her personal life, but her love for racing is evident. She likes her Storck bike but is no equipment freak. She talks about her rather old-school training methods, and demonstrates that she is pretty incompetent at peeling bananas. She talks about her tattoos (being not very with-it, I am uncertain why good-looking young women like to have sentences–an Oscar Wilde quotation on the neck?–permanently engraved on themselves). She may not be an Eddy Merckx, or, perhaps more appropriately, a Jeannie Longo in terms of wins but perhaps finding happiness in what you do is its own reward.
Check out the first Second Preview.
This low-key film is not meant to be a deeply-probing documentary. Ms. Hatch does not discuss how women’s racing could become more popular, or talk much about her teammates. She left her team a few months after the film was made and now races in Europe. She does touch briefly on doping but it is not clear to me how prevalent it is in women’s cycling. This DVD is really just a nice day’s ride with a strong and companionable cyclist. After watching it, I think I would like to ride with Liz Hatch. You might too.
You can get the documentary directly from CycleFilm for Ⓤ14.99 (including shipping) at CycleFilm.com
When not wishing he was racing blondes along the sunny Pacific Highway, Leslie Reissner can be found pedalling through frozen slush at TinDonkey.com.