Colorado bicycling on the silver screen
Last week I had the pleasure of emceeing a very special showing of the bicycle racing movie American Flyers. Hosted by our friends from the USA Pro Challenge, the evening was a celebration of the Colorado bicycle community and the role of racing, present and past.
More than 200 joined us for an evening of “behind the scenes” stories, a showing of the film and conversation with the VIPs in attendance.
Showcasing the Colorado racing scene
All of the movie’s racing scenes were filmed in Colorado over a six-week period in July and August 1984. I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be one of the 50 local bicyclists featured in the race scenes.
Colorado’s bicycling and racing communities were the inspiration for the film, written by Steve Tesich, who lived, rode and raced bicycles in Colorado for many years. One of Steve’s good friends was Denverite and racer Bob Shaver, whose company (ShaverSport) provided the kits the actors wore.
The two met when Bob was a teenager working at a local bike shop and they became fast friends, often riding and training together. Many of their riding experiences made it into the film.
Riding with Eddie
A favorite scene of mine is the one where brothers David and Marcus go for a training ride. Marcus explains they are going to meet up with someone named Eddie on their ride. As they ride past the house where Eddie lives, a ferocious dog comes running at top speed towards the cyclists. Marcus explains, “That’s Eddie.” Time to work on your sprint!
In fact, Bob Shaver and Steve Tesich, on their rides together in the 70’s, on rural roads northeast of Denver (today’s DIA), really did encounter a ranch dog that would chase them at top speed and actually got hold of Steve’s shoe on one ride. They named the dog “Eddie” in honor of Eddy Merckx, the phenomenal pro racer from Belgium.
Misadventures at the Coors Classic
Filming overlapped with the actual Coors Classic race. Several of the scenes on the famed Morgul Bismark course in southeast Boulder County are footage from the real race. In addition, the stage that started in Golden at the Coors brewery intermingled the actual race competitors with the actors and cycling extras from the film.
As we prepared to film a mock start in Golden, the race announcer let the Coors Classic racers know the starter’s gun was only for the film cast. Unfortunately, some foreign racers who did not speak English thought they had missed the start when they heard the gun go off and frantically chased us down as we were climbing Washington Avenue through downtown Golden!
That was fun. Let’s do it again!
It was certainly fun to share these stories and more with the audience at the 2015 American Flyers film night, celebrating Colorado riding and racing, including today’s USA Pro Challenge and the historical Colorado races (real and fictitious) from the 70’s and 80’s.
With the success of the event this year, the organizers are looking forward to producing a similar event next year. Time to prepare some additional stories to share in 2016.
A special thank you to VIPs Ron Kiefel of Wheat Ridge Cyclery, Coors Classic and Tour de France competitor in the 80’s and 90’s; Ray Hilliard and John Bowen, fellow cycling cast members from the film; Bob Shaver, with his many connections including Colorado racing in the 70’s, the film’s writer and storylines, plus his role to help establish the Pro Challenge race in Colorado; current pro (and my son), Drew Christopher of the Champion System–Stan’s NoTubes team; and Shawn Hunter, CEO of the USA Pro Challenge.
Thanks, also, to co-host Alamo Drafthouse Littleton and the organizing committee: Brett Lange, Jaime Harmon, Bob Shaver, Bret Kiebele and Patty Heinhorst. And thanks to Littleton’s mayor, Phil Cernanec, for sharing historic bicycling photos from the late 1800’s and for the city’s support of the August 1 Littleton Criterium pro race—it was a big success.
And a special shoutout to our host, the USA Pro Challenge. Can’t wait for the 2015 event, August 17-23.
Do you have a favorite scene or story from the film? Share it in the comments below.