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1979 saw the release of the film Breaking Away. A film that spoke to the hearts of all the Euro-phile cycling fans embedded within American Cycling Culture. The film went on to win (out of five nominations) the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay that year.
With an emphasis placed on not only Cycling but also the American "coming of age" story; Breaking Away tends toward the cheesy side of life. With a dose of Cycling slang and culture thrown in, the film comes off as a quirky portrayal of a young man enraptured with this foreign sport.
One of the favored scenes comes near the beginning of the film when we see the main character Dave tackling that age old tradition of shaving his legs.
Matt Seaton, a former professional cyclist, author, and writer for the Guardian, describes it best when he portrays this very scenario in Issue #4 of Rouleur.
Raymond Stoller, a somewhat sour secondhand car salesman, played by Paul Dooley (a fine journeyman character actor who has never been out of work since the early 60s, and whom you've likely seen most recently as Larry David's father-in-law in Curb Your Enthusiasm), decides that he's had enough of his 19-year-old son Dave's affectations and that he's 'going to have it out with him'…
Watched by his wife (Barbara Barrie), we see Ray make for the bathroom where Dave has gone to take a shower after winning a bike race. But, instead of the expected confrontation, Ray returns to the corridor with an utterly stunned look on his face – director Peter York evidently noticed Dooley's talent for expression, as the film closes with an affectionate freeze frame of him doing 'astonishment' with heroic emphasis.
"He's shaving." Ray says flatly.
"Well? So what?" replies Dave's mother, Evelyn.
"His legs. He's shaving his legs."
From the crowd a laugh, a chuckle, and a wink of understanding coming from anyone in the know.
The film itself stands out as one of the better narratives of the Cycling Ethos surrounding the sport most of us have come to know and love. Documentaries are another story and one would be hard pressed to pick just one film to cross the finish line first. Surprisingly, the feature film department is lacking in anything that really represents 'cycling' in all its glory. It is interesting to note, however, that the other cycling film that springs to mind is American Flyers, which was also written by Steve Tesiche, the very same screenplay writer from Breaking Away.
Although with Mr. Armstrong's return to the sport one would have to guess that something in this arena won't be too far behind.
The year 2009 marks the 30 year anniversary of this film and to pay tribute Rapha has teamed up once again with Austin Texas based shop Mellow Johnny's to present:
Breaking Away with Rapha and Mellow Johnny's!
Taking place right in the middle of the Tour de France the event will pay tribute to Cycling and Breaking Away by re-entacting the final race scene of the film. Ten teams will compete in our own version of the Little 500 on July 12th. We have even brought back some of the local flavor that was a part of the Roller Races and added a few new teams.
But the night doesn't end there*. Following the racing The Alamo Drafthouse has come on board to show the film in a special outdoor screening directly behind Mellow Johnny's.
The night actually starts with a ride from Mellow Johnny's at 5:30 PM to the track at Kealing Middle School to watch the races.
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