When I think of New Zealand’s recent Tour de France stars I think of names like George Bennett, Dion Smith, Tom Scully, Jack Bauer, Greg Henderson, Patrick Bevin, Shane Archbold and Julian Dean. One Day Ahead brings to life the stories of eight new heroes who in their own way deserve to be named alongside the pros we’ve come to know and love.
Bruce Thompson, Jason Kelly, John Randal, Mike Conza, Dr Steven Fish, Paul Arnesen, Aaron Hill and Stuart Lowe were the eight ‘ordinaries’ that rolled up in Noirmoutier-en-l’Île. One Day Ahead is a documentary that tells the story about how eight self-confessed non-pros, from all different walks of life and corners of New Zealand, came together to ride every single stage of the 2018 Tour de France one day ahead of the best riders in the world.
The mission was in aide of the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, a charity for whom the eight riders raised a total of over $70,000 for. Coached by Hayden Roulston and led by Jonathan Douglas and Rouleur Bike Tours, the mission proved to be a success as all eight made it to Paris; but that is just the tip of the iceberg. One Day Ahead attempts to get beneath the iceberg.
At just shy of an hour long, it’s not a very long movie; and it moves fast. There’s not a lot of time to bask in any one moment for any length of time, but within the mass of story to move through the film is careful to pause – if not stop – in the moments that matter. We see a very brief glimpse of the riders on a training camp in New Zealand – under the watchful eye of Coach Roulston – and then it’s straight to France and stage 1.
One of the great trademarks of Tour de France coverage is that not only is the viewer immersed in the race, but the viewer is also immersed in France. TV coverage of the Tour de France does a fantastic job of putting the great nation on display, and so too does One Day Ahead. Packed into 50 minutes we were compelled not just to be in France but to be amongst the lads. You find yourself wanting to be with them going up the Col de la Madeleine, the Tourmalet, the cobbles on the way to the Roubaix velodrome; and of course on the Champs-Elysees. The beautiful, historic, epic landmarks that we know and love are captured magnificently, but captured with a uniquely Kiwi twist provided by the stories of these eight men.
One Day Ahead concerns itself less with focussing on the commentary of the task of each day and more with the effect that the challenge has on the eight riders; thus making it a very personal, intimate visual experience in a way that typical Tour de France coverage isn’t. You are confronted by the realities of ‘ordinaries’ trying to do an extraordinary professional athletic feat. The film puts you in the middle of the fatigue, the exhaustion, the sickness, the tears, the rawest emotions, the highs and lows and the weight of significance of what eight far-from-ordinary riders were attempting to do.
At the end of One Day Ahead I got the sense that in a small way I’d gotten to know these eight riders somehow; which is one of the film’s great triumphs. It brought me up close to a Tour de France team, to our Tour de France team, the lads from New Zealand who took on the world’s greatest bike race.
This film is easily one of the most inspiring documentaries I have seen in recent memory, it is a testament to the human spirit, to the bond that even strangers can share when joined by a common cause, and to the mentality that decides to push through the boundaries of what is possible and reach a little bit further. After watching One Day Ahead it only leaves me wanting to go and do it too.