Race to the top is not quite a Tour de Force
Ventoux, Warwick Arts Centre Studio, May 18-19
This play is about the intense rivalry between cyclists Lance Armstrong and
Marco Pantani as they competed for the coveted yellow jersey when
ascending the formidable Mont Ventoux during the 2000 Tour de France.
It is energetically and dynamically delivered by Tom Barnes and
Alexander Gatehouse on a set containing two stationary bikes and three ice
The production contains video footage and actual audio commentary as well
as some extraordinarily fast pedalling.
Both cyclists had faced adversity – Armstrong had over overcome testicular
cancer while Pantani had alcohol and drug addictions
Their careers subsequently followed different paths with Armstrong winning
seven overall victories while Pantani went into steep decline and died alone
from acute cocaine poisoning.
Sadly both competitors were later discredited as it was discovered that their
remarkable efforts were fuelled by drugs.
The actors appeared to have been chosen for their cycling ability and
impressive stamina and fitness rather than their acting skills with no attempts
at a Texan or Italian accent.
The impressive first night audience appeared to comprise many cycling fans
and the imaginative production was well received.
It showed the lengths that top sportsmen will go to in order to win but did not
fully explore the reasons why.
It appears that taking performance enhancing drugs was rife in cycling at this
time and you have to feel some sympathy for competitors who wanted to
remain clean but knew that their efforts to climb the hills would not be made
on a level playing field.