Here’s the hierarchy of cyclists as we see it: On the bottom, anyone pedaling a recumbent bike at Bally’s. Next up, the dudes on the Lakefront Bike Path who think they’re Lance Armstrong. Then the actual Lance Armstrong. And at the top of the pyramid: Jure Robic. If you’re Slovenian, Robic needs no introduction; if you’re not, he’s a god among the ultra-marathon cyclists featured in the documentary film Bicycle Dreams, which premieres in Chicago on Feb. 16, 7 p.m., at the Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western Ave.
Even if we had read nothing but this profile, Robic would have our undying respect; anyone who pushes himself to the point of hallucinating mujahideen is aces in our book. But Bicycle Dreams goes one better, following the cyclist and his fellow madmen and women as they compete in the Race Across America (RAAM), a 3,000-mile, Pacific-to-Atlantic test of endurance and sanity that’s 800 miles longer than the Tour de France and typically completed in less than 10 days. Do the math: that’s a sh*t ton of time spent with your butt on the seat of a bike.
With camera operators embedded inside the riders’ crew vehicles, filmmaker Stephen Auerbach was perfectly positioned to capture the moment this adventure transformed into a tragedy, as well as the aftermath as the cyclists struggled physically and mentally to reach the finish line. (Spoiler alert: Do NOT look up RAAM on Wikipedia if you don’t want to know in advance which rider you shouldn’t get too attached to.)
Tickets are $11 in advance or $15 at the door if not sold out. The evening also includes a Q & A with RAAM veterans and an after-party featuring the Racketeers – an all girl BMX bike dance collective – and a raffle, with prizes like a folding bike and a tune-up from Village Cycle Center up for grabs. A portion of the evening’s proceeds will be donated to The Chainlink, a social media site for Chicago cyclists.