Scratches (Film)

“Scratches” is a new film from Ryan Le Garrec that opens with Belgian ultra-cyclist Manu Cattrysse crashing out of the 2023 Silk Road Mountain Race and uses that experience to step back and unpack the broader role that cycling has played in shaping his life and helping him heal. Watch the powerful 25-minute film here…

Photos by Manu Cattrysse

Co-created with Manu Cattrysse, Scratches tells the story of his unsuccessful attempt to ride the Silk Road Mountain Race in Kyrgyzstan and shares the broader context of how riding bikes has helped him chart a course through life and overcome personal obstacles. Although things didn’t work out for him in the race or with the film we were initially planning to create, Manu used the experience to tell a far more impactful and personal story. Watch it below, followed by some words about the evolution of the project.

Note: this film contains references to sexual abuse.

Why do we ride?
Like this
We all know it
Or do we?
For many people asking us about these endeavours,
it usually boils down to just “But why?”

  • Scratches, Manu Catrysse
  • Scratches, Manu Catrysse

What touches me with this story is how clear and poignant
and ultimately life saving
the start of these rides were
and how viscerally Manu needed them.

We strap the bags
The first pedal strokes are sometimes hesitant
The first miles often daunting
But soon enough it’s just us and the road
We are free

Scratches, Manu Catrysse

And when we do strip things to the bare minimum we need to live,
packing only the essentials
do we also get to also drop behind some of our past,
do we leave behind more than just things?

  • Scratches, Manu Catrysse
  • Scratches, Manu Catrysse

Soon the mind makes room,
the silence takes its place,
large and comfortable, 
the brain empties a bit,
then more,
the soul is sailing light.

Finally in the moment.

Empty thoughts bouncing around with no aim,
yet finding more than what they’re looking for
or finding nothing and leaving you totally at peace with that.

Silence is bliss.

Initially, Manu Cattrysse was a tourer. He wasn’t chasing anything, ever, before racing. He was trying to shake and loose some memories than chase anything. The rides had no goals beyond the other side of the hill, the top of the mountain, or the next border.

Scratches, Manu Catrysse
  • Scratches, Manu Catrysse
  • Scratches, Manu Catrysse

Scratches is not a film about ending a race as much as it is about the start of it all, the origin of cycling adventures for someone like Manu, which probably in many ways, is parallel to lots of people. Why do we need this kind of riding? Why do we crave this adventure? Rather than answering the generic question, the film explores Manu’s relationship with cycling as a tool for freedom, exploration, meditation and maybe therapy. The film takes place during the Silk Road Mountain Race in 2023, where Manu crashed and had to scratch. It then go back in time and travels to other lands. Initially, the film was meant to be a race recap, but then it morphed into a love letter to freedom and movement until it eventually all changed again. Scratches is the result of a constantly evolving process.

Manu and I have been working hand-in-hand on making this film. It started as a race recap project. A simple video, self-filmed, about his race in Kyrgyzstan. Eventually, Manu crashed on the third day of the race. He was in good place, literally and figuratively, although the headwinds were vicious, and then he just binned it on rocks and badly hurt his ribs. It wouldn’t take long until he figured his race was over. Months of preparation, so much investment, all out and now nothing in return, or so it seemed.

Scratches, Manu Catrysse

But it was about to get a whole lot worse. When he came back to Belgium, he took his son to the skate park. That’s how he destroyed his knee on a simple wrong move, maybe a twist, a twist of fate. Now that was the real crash, I thought, and we’d make a story on that. How one tackles the start of a six month long recovery and just can’t be whining anymore about scratching out of a race. That all feels so much more trivial by now. All the self-pity replaced by the gravity of this new injury.

  • Scratches, Manu Catrysse
  • Scratches, Manu Catrysse

I thought we’d make a film on that, in appreciation of movement and freedom by bike. I thought our film would be beautiful and simple in a way, using contrasting images of the Kyrgyz mountains flashing before Manu’s eyes and images the grey, bleak winter and rehab in Belgium starting in a hospital bed, a wheelchair, crunches and slowly getting back on a stationary bike. I thought it was all following the flow peacefully despite a few rocky challenges for both of us. That’s when Manu called and said he had something else he wanted to talk about, and then the film took a totally different direction.

Manu said: “You know, I had scratched about four hours before, and I was about to reach that village where I could hope for a lift back to civilisation. I was riding that straight and flat dirt road, and there was still not much around or on the horizon. Then out of nowhere, this kid on his horse appeared, he was riding, and his dog was following. We didn’t talk, at any point, we just looked at each other. He had this quiet smile and some sort of confidence. He was just there and I was too. We rode for a while together, just like that, silent, smiling at each other sometimes. There was something in his eyes, I can’t really explain, like he was telling me not to worry, that everything would be fine. It really had an impact on me the way he was, the way he looked, and how I felt he was saying something that words would betray. I am still unsure whether he was even real…”

Ryan Le Garrec

About Ryan Le Garrec

Ryan Le Garrec is a filmmaker who fell in love with cycling after being a bike messenger in Brussels. Focused on everything adventure cycling, Ryan dedicates his time and work to share how bicycles can improve our lives. He has worked in Sweden and all around Europe from an early age while working with Damien Rice and a contemporary dance group based in Sweden. He also co-produced and directed a TV show about personalities from all ways of life living or passing by Belgium. He works as a photographer and writer and defines himself as a multi-media artist, wannabe vagabond cyclist, and a keen credit-card bikepacker.

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