words : Anne Clarrissimeaux / photos : Nicole Ortega
Belgium may be the world hotbed of cyclo-cross, but Austin got to debut the cyclo-cross documentary “For the Love of Mud,” produced by British filmmaker Benedict Campbell and presented by Stages Cycling. The world premiere of the film was hosted by TexasBikeRacing.com and was held last night at Austin’s Stateside Theater during the 2015 Cyclo-cross National Championships. Event sponsors included DNA Cycling, Cyclocross Magazine, CXHairs.com, Trek Bikes, Bicycle Sport Shop, ReQwip, Castelli, Giro, Specialized, BTB TV, High Brew Coffee, Bearded Brothers, and Beanitos.
Racing elite from across Texas and and beyond, showed up to see the movie and the throwback theater was a cozy setting for a movie screening on a cold night after days of hard racing. Team $uper Awesome and Team Yacht Club entertained the crowd of over 300 at the 8 p.m. showing with a duel of gold sprints on Trek Bikes with Stages Cycling power meters to see who is the most powerful bike team in town. (We’re not totally sure who won.) The first 60 attendees received gift bags.
The wry facial expressions and deadpan silence of Sven Nys might be worth the ticket price alone.
Beautifully filmed, with a thoughtful edit and a music track that serves a classical juxtaposition to the grit of the imagery, Campbell gives a nicely paced, wide-ranging, thorough look at the sport of cyclo-cross. The feature-length film wound its way through the history of cyclo-cross, looking back at its muddy roots in Belgium, traveling through the sport’s growth and expansion across Europe and into the United States and took the audience inside the tape of some of the biggest races. Also featured throughout the movie were candid conversations with some of the most well-known names in cyclocross, including Sven Nys, Katie Compton, Keith Bontrager, Jeremy Powers, Helen Wyman, and others. The movie offered awesome grainy footage of early races, when no one wore helmets and might’ve smoked and drank beer along the course as they raced from village to village in the early 1900s. Funny asides came from the interviewees themselves as they reminisced about the good ol’ days and poked fun at the sport and each other. The wry facial expressions and deadpan silence of Sven Nys might be worth the ticket price alone.
The movie includes footage at races such as the 2014 CX Nationals in Boulder, Hoogerheide Cross, Koppenberg Cross, and trekked up the mountains of the Three Peaks Challenge — and many smaller, local cross races that represent the heart of the niche sport.
“It’s nervewracking, you know, when you show a film,” Campbell says.
“It’s nervewracking, you know, when you show a film,” Campbell says. “There are so many subtle things in the film that you’re always waiting to hear how the audience reacts — and tonight it was neat to see that they did.”
Campbell spent a year and a half working on the documentary, shooting, interviewing and editing the movie himself. He says the idea for the film actually came during a work trip to Austin about four years ago when he had a conversation with Robert Wray, publisher of TexasBikeRacing.com. The two were working on another project together and the topic of cycling and specifically cyclo-cross came up, “I’d brought my bike with me to Austin and Robert and I went out for a ride,” he says. “In chatting with him, I was surprised to find out about the cyclo-cross scene in the U.S. and it sparked my interest to start on this film.”
After the 8 p.m. showing, Bill Schieken from CXHairs.com hosted a Q&A discussion with panelists including Benedict Campbell, Zach McDonald, Ryan Trebon, Jamie Driscoll, Paul Bonds, and Adam Myerson.
Tickets for the early showing sold out in five hours, so a second showing was added at 11 p.m.; after the Friday night premiere, because of the high-interest level from the Friday night shows, a Saturday night showing was added.
The film is available in limited release and would be great for clubs or groups of 100 or so to show; in the near future, the film will be available on video on demand. “I just really want people to watch this in big groups and enjoy watching it together.” Campbell says. We do too, Ben — and we’re thrilled we got to see the world premiere in Austin!