The 9 Ball Diaries £19.99
The 9 Ball Diaries is the latest release from the four-time Emmy Award-winning sports documentary producer and director Don Hampton, who will be well known to mountain bikers, but who in this latest flick delves into the world of cyclo-cross racing.
Following a year in the life of U.S. cyclo-cross National Champion Tim Johnson, The 9 Ball Diaries gets right under the skin of just what is involved competing at the top level of this branch of cycle racing, following all its mud-caked ups and downs as Johnson makes his yearly transition from road to cyclo-cross and his consequent battles in the tough US Grand Prix series.
The action starts with Johnson hanging up his road bike and dusting down his Cannondale ‘cross bike, with racing starting in earnest in Las Vegas at the annual Interbike race. Then it’s off to multiple venues around the US before he wraps up the National Champs title at a snow covered Kansas City. Unless you’re a keen follower of the US ‘cross race scene, most of the other top riders will be unknown to you, but that hardly matters. With the camera concentrated on Johnson you get a rare view of the top level of the sport.
It’s riveting stuff too, and the film takes us behind the scenes and allows us a glimpse into the psyche of a top racer battling to win each round, and the intense challenges he faces through the season. There’s plenty of Johnson talking to the camera and he constantly lets you know how the season is panning out and what obstacles he faces. The film gets off to a bit of an overly dramatic start, but with the sharp editing and intelligent filming, you’re entertained and kept riveted to your seat through the DVD’s duration.
It’s all superbly filmed, with multiple camera angles to make each race followed exciting and there’s even some nifty camera work (panning alongside the obstacles for example is very smooth). And there’s some great close-up slow motion sections that add to the general high quality of the overall production. The sound track is well chosen and contributes to the film ticking along at a good lick.
I wouldn’t describe myself as a huge fan of the ‘cross scene at all, though I have been dabbling in few local races in the last couple of months, purely for fun. [So you say – ed.] That aside, I found the DVD an easy watch; the pace moves along sufficiently quickly to keep you interested the footage and is filmed to a high enough level that you’re kept entertained. Avid ‘cross riders and racers will find it an insightful watch, while non ‘cross riders will still find it a worthwhile use of 50 minutes.