Although not quite as prominent a cycle race as the Tour de France, the Paris-Roubaix is, nevertheless, no less gruelling. The final stage is especially arduous: a narrow, cobbled roadway more suited to mountain bikes than highly tuned racers. Not for nothing has this section been dubbed 'L'Enfer du Nord' (Hell of the North). This documentary on the 1976 event is especially fascinating as it focuses on the tussle between three of the greatest road racers of the period: Eddie Merckx, the Miguel Indurain of his day; his chief rival and three-times winner, Roger de Vlaeminck; and Freddy Maertens, the predominant rider at that time. There's no comfort zone here: in the wet, it's muddy and miserable; in the dry, as in this particularly drought-ridden year, the bikes and support vehicles kick up huge clouds of lung-filling dust. Despite a few lagging moments, the film is most notable for its honest, home-movie structure and its informative, old-fashioned commentary.
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