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07 July 2014

Pedal pushers -- Tour de movies

Dave (Dennis Christopher) is not a champion Italian cyclist. He just plays one to get the girl in "Breaking Away." (20th Century Fox)

Every year about this time the winding, hilly streets of France are filled with finely tuned bodies swooshing by in colorful spandex giving their all in an attempt to win the Tour de France.

I must admit that cycling is not my usual sport of choice.  What I really enjoy, though, is how the streets of U.S. towns and cities fill (especially early on Saturday mornings) with not so finely tuned bodies stretching their brightly colored spandex to the stitch-splitting max celebrating the Tour de France vicariously.

You may be asking.  What about us movie-lovers, though?  How are we supposed to glorify the thrill of pedal-to-pedal competition?

Hey, bike off.  I've got you covered.

Although Breaking Away (1979) isn't about the Tour de France as such.  It is about cycling ... and so much more.  Dennis Christopher heads the cast as a lonely recent high school grad living in the college town of Bloomington, Ind.  A college co-ed catches his eye and he poses as an Italian -- an Italian cyclist, that is -- to try to win her affections.

A very young Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and San Antonian Jackie Earle Haley round out the cast, along with Barbara Barrie, Paul Dooley and Robyn Douglass as Katherine, the object of Dave's (Christopher) affection.

I saw five or six grizzled salesmen (who should have been working) stand up and cheer the exciting finish (a bicycle race, of course) when I first saw Breaking Away in a Dallas movie house in 1979.

Check it out in the spirit of the Tour de France.  If you don't stand up and cheer, I guarantee that at the very least it will cheer you up.


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