Human Playground just launched on Netflix on Friday, and the documentary series—voiced by Idris Elba!—kicked off with an episode featuring Paris-Roubaix Femmes and Trek-Segafredo’s Ellen van Dijk. The episode is all about willingness to experience pain to win, which is a pretty solid description of bike racing.
The premise of Human Playground is to explore “the origins and evolution of play across the globe, from age-old rituals to billion-dollar businesses.” From bullfighting to big wave surfing to sumo wrestling to bike racing, it’s all in this very painful (but inspiring!) series.
“Initially, the race was deemed to dangerous for the females of our species,” Elba narrates over old Paris-Roubaix footage that focused on dramatic cobblestone crashes. Then, we see race favorite Ellen Van Dijk.
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“You can break your ribs easily,” she says, during a massage. “But you can still race… Push stoically from start to finish.”
And that’s pretty much what happened to her that day. The 2021 race begins in the rain on Human Playground—and we have to admit, with Elba narrating, it takes on an even more epic vibe as riders crash on the cobbles. Even if you’ve watched the race already, the montage in this episode is worth the rewatch. We also hear the race radios that weren’t being played in the original race feed, and an intense soundtrack adds to the drama. As cycling fans may recall, Van Dijk had an intense crash, but her teammate, Lizzie Deignan, was able to take the win.
As The Review Geek said, “The visuals are fantastic and the interviews insightful, managing to really get into the headspace of these men and women as they set out to tackle the impossible. It’s hard not to come away inspired by some of the feats.”
While the show only touches on bike racing in the one episode, the series is worth watching if you need a bit of motivation on the trainer this season. And we appreciate that there’s a clear effort made to feature many women as well as men in each episode.
Watch the full trailer here:
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Molly writes about cycling, nutrition and training, with an emphasis on women in sport. Her new middle-grade series, Shred Girls, debuts with Rodale Kids/Random House in 2019 with “Lindsay’s Joyride.” Her other books include “Mud, Snow and Cyclocross,” “Saddle, Sore” and “Fuel Your Ride.” Her work has been published in magazines like Bicycling, Outside and Nylon. She co-hosts The Consummate Athlete Podcast.