Lost in the Crowd Alleycat: An In-depth Analysis
17.09.06 by Walshy
Saturday September 9th, 2006
“So anyway, I’m standing in the Murphis Bar basement and Zak Speedfast is, as Operation Ivy once sung, yelling in my ear.
“The pedestrians were scared. They were running away screaming.” Then he nods in the direction of a tall, still figure standing against a wall. “Who is this guy? He comes all the way from New York with all these cameras on his head and then rides around like a nutter and donates all his money and his missus races and then he just swaps his £300 wheel with some random guy…”
I must admit that I was rather sceptical when Keith first approached Seb and I at the Duke two weeks prior to the Bicycle Film Festival weekend.
“Yeah man. He’s gonna donate £300 for prizes and do some filming. Have you seen Monster Track? He wants to do that in London.”
Seb had worked really hard organising his ‘Meat Farmer Joe’ alleycat which had already been, quite literally, rain-checked once and was due to re-run in a weeks time. He was now being asked to reschedule for a second time so that the race would coincide, but not conflict, with the Festival screenings. Hence, the reason why Friday night was out of the question. So, with a little organisational advice from myself, Seb decided to postpone ‘Meat Farmer Joe’ indefinitely and start with a clean slate.
Brendt Barbur called me a few days later and explained that his friend Lucas Brunelle had a few guidelines for the race. A basic set of criteria was established in the hope of maximising the transfer of excitement, and dare I say danger, from real life onto the big screen. Seb and I swiftly courted brain cells and gave birth to ‘Lost in the Crowd’.
After a speedy flier creation and distribution we set about developing a course. The 1st part of our criteria was ‘Capture the Excitement’. Our first idea was to send the riders into the most over-crowded and congested parts of London. Following a trial run we decided that Leicester Square and Carnaby Street were too hectic. The big difference between Friday night racing and Saturday afternoon racing is the abundance of kids and Grannies. It’s one thing to clean up a flash, suit-wearing, 30 something, businessman, but old Mrs Smith doesn’t deserve an early grave. We have since been criticised by various riders, including the overall winner, for creating an unnecessarily dangerous course. I guess sending the riders deliberately up and down Old Compton Street, so that they would cross each other, was a tad risky. The footage looks great though!
The 2nd part of our criteria was ‘Easy Checkpoints’, hence, the yellow flags. Dunno if they helped the riders any better than normal but they were fun to make! We also wanted an A-Z free race. Can you imagine watching a ‘Brunelle’ film that’s filled with index searching and co-ordinate locating. Boring! This ain’t no ‘Warren Miller’ production (it should be noted here that Cyclone’s Adam assures me that heading west along Southwark Street after the Southwark Catherdal checkpoint was Lucas’s idea and not his inventive sense of direction). Brendt also suggested that 5 or 6 checkpoints would be ideal. We finalised the course with 13. The reason behind this was simple. In my opinion, the best footage in ‘Monster Track’ involved 3 or more riders in view. We selected lots of short checkpoints so that there would only be one ideal route between them and maybe 1 or 2 alternatives. We were hoping that the riders would bunch up for most of the race so that Lucas could tailgate large numbers kinda like the ‘Running of the Bulls’ where Lucas represents the bull and everyone else represents the heartless and inhumane crowd. Ideally, by the end of the race, every rider would have ridden exactly the same route and Lucas would have sat behind, and among, the main pack catching all the action. It didn’t really work out but I reckon me and Seb definitely deserve a gold star for deliberate intention and attention to detail.
The 3rd part of the criteria was ‘London Terrain’. Our aim was to try and capture as many alleyways, tunnels and tight roads and streets as possible on camera. The NCP and IMAX were evidence of our attempt to contrast the London terrain with the grids of New York and hills of San Francisco. The route from the Tate Modern through to Southwark Cathedral was also planned deliberately in order to capture this cities distinct archways and cobble stones.
Finally came section 4 of the criteria, ‘The London Experience’. We had to try and throw a few everyday London happenings into the mix. It was guarateed that the riders would cross Tower Bridge between Southwark Cathedral and the Tower of London so we organised a large yacht to request a bridge opening during the middle of the race. The 15th placed rider, Vermin, crossed on the red light just before the bridge slowly opened it’s steel jaws…
… just kidding. We had nothing to do with it. Pure chance. Do ya really think our organisational skills are that sofisticated? I think not. Actually, maybe in the future. The possibilties are really starting to make the cogs in my brain churn. What if… next time, we…
Seb and I introduced ourselves to Lucas and Roz at the Thursday screening. After watching ‘Pedal’ I was kinda expecting a loud, hyperactive personality from him. I was wrong. For a man who travels the world doing what he does I thought he was very cool, calm and collected indeed. He allowed me and Seb to explain our ideas and then worked around them. I’m pretty sure that he didn’t ride the course before the race which means he succesfully followed London’s current (Elliot was damn quick) fastest as they guided him on a whirlwind tour of Central London. That’s a feat in itself! I’ve been riding these streets for 5 years and still can’t keep up. Having bigged-up his skill and leg speed I must add that Roz did actually beat him to the finish line.
“What puncture? She’s just faster than you Mr Brunelle, ha ha.”
48 riders signed up, 47 raced and around 40 completed the race unscathed. Miracle! Corrine seemed to be the worst casualty in her first ever race. She now knows, as the saying goes, what it feels like to ‘piss in the long grass with the big dogs’! I’m pleased to say that she did return to the finish with both a working bike and working body. In fact, her battle scars weren’t about to stop her ripping up the dance floor at the after party. Punctures were suffered by Lucas and Zak Speedfast. Zak’s ride wasn’t a total disaster though ‘cause he ended up stealing the limelight around Oxford Circus. Speaking of limelight, a mention must go out to Ricky Iceman and Jos who led Lucas down Haymarket in what was to be publicly acclaimed as the dogs-bollocks (or duck’s nuts if you will) footage. 1st overall by ‘bout 6 minutes was the D-Train who received £125 for his near flawless race. Crazy cat Marco came in 2nd and copped £75 for his efforts.
“You’ll be able to buy a real nice brake with that money Marco!”
£50 went to Mr D. Bartkowski who, after crashing on the first turn of the race, finished 3nd. Therese showed off some real girl-power by obliterating a majority of the field by finishing 1st female and 11th overall. She banked £50.
Time for a few thankyous. This is gonna sound like a recording of my award speed. Oh well. It probably went in one ear and out the other the first time ‘round anyway. Firstly Seb and I would like to thank Brendt Barbur and the Bicycle Film Festival for providing the platform that brought London’s leg-powered-scum together to do what we do best. Socialise and terrorise! Second, we’d like to thank Tapestry Matt for visually documenting the end of the race with his camera. Thirdly, Jo at Vexed has kindly promised some trendy garments for the winners. Cheers. Thanks to all the checkpoint marshalls who did a great job at negotiating public and police interest whilst making sure the race would continue like clockwork. I reckon there were just as many of you as there were riders. Massive respect goes out to Lucas Brunelle for donating the £300 prize money and, more importantly, for wanting to document the London scene through the lens’s attached to his head. Imagine pulling the ‘Lost in the Crowd’ footage out for the grandchildren! Finally, we’d like to thank the riders whom we are very jealous. Next time someone else can do the organising so that me and Seb can race.
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