The Last Rider


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Last Rider
"The structure of the documentary itself is formulaic but well executed." | Photo: Dogwoof

Two-thirds of the route to a great documentary is the subject matter - and Alex Holmes certainly knows how to spot it. He previously brought Tracy Edwards against-the-odds yacht race tale to screen in Maiden and he’s alighted on another great fight-amid-adversity story with the career of Greg LeMond.

In recent years, the documentary arena surrounding cycling and the Tour De France has mostly focused on the negative side of the sport, thrust into the spotlight by shamed doping-scandal cyclist Lance Armstrong (Holmes himself previously directed Stop At Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story). Here, with the determined but personable Tour De France winner LeMond, the documentarian offers the flipside of that.

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The structure of the documentary itself is formulaic but well executed. LeMond appears as a talking head interview against a tranquil blue background, driving his story from his first go at cycling to the most remarkable win of his career. He is helped by a small but strong chorus of additional voices, including his wife Kathy, former coach Cyrille Guimard and ex-Tour Spanish rival Perico Delgado.

In between the chat segments, Holmes has assembled a wealth of footage, tightly edited by Paul Monaghan and Gibran Ramos, which illustrates not just the on-road action but also the behind-the-scenes support from LeMond’s family. The story, which begins in Lake Tahoe and ends in a nailbiting cycle against French two-time Tour champ and sometime “ cocky son of a bitch” Laurent Fignon, flows naturally thanks to Holmes approaching it in straightforward chronological fashion.

Although obviously a fierce competitor, LeMond is also fiercely likeable, self-effacing but determined and generous in his comments about others. He also put this sort of spirit into action when, in 1985, when he was starting out, he put his own ambitions to one side to help teammate Bernard Hinault win his fifth Tour. His good deed did not go unpunished when, the following year, Hinault failed to make good on his promise of helping LeMond in return, instead turned into an unexpected rival.

This is just one of the twists in LeMond’s story, which also includes past trauma and an accident that rocked his family as well as his career. Beyond LeMond’s enjoyable presence, Holmes rightly gives Kathy her due. She has never wavered in the support of her husband through thick and thin and this film - and her husband - are quick to hold that up for celebration. Building to an emotionally satisfying and gripping climax - particularly if you are not a Tour aficionado - the film also gives the feisty Fignon his due.

Reviewed on: 23 Jun 2023
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The incredible story of the greatest cycling race in history, the 1989 Tour De France, and how American Greg LeMond faced down betrayal, childhood sexual abuse and death, completing one of the most inspiring comebacks in history.
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Director: Alex Holmes

Writer: Alex Holmes

Starring: Perico Delgado, Laurent Fignon, Cyrille Guimard,. Greg LeMond, Kathy LeMond

Year: 2022

Runtime: 96 minutes

Country: UK

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