British rider was called in to play Armstrong in riding scenes
A role in a Hollywood film is on many a bucket list, but for One Pro Cycling’s Yanto Barker his debut on the big screen meant taking on one of the toughest roles in The Program — doubling as Lance Armstrong himself.
“I am the rider in the opening shot riding slowly up a hill with Ben Foster [who plays Armstrong] narrating over the top,” Barker said.
“I did most of the shots filmed from a distance or at speed, which required timing and strength to get the scene right and to keep up the same speed after 20 takes.”
Ben Foster is a very convincing Armstrong
Barker got involved through David Millar, who acted as an adviser on the film, as the creators were looking to use professional cyclists to make the race scenes as authentic and accurate as possible.
He waved goodbye to his home in Devon for a month in order to film in the Alps, as well as some scenes in London.
Other British professionals such as Liam Holohan and Kristian House were extras, as well as former riders from Armstrong’s era such as Servais Knaven, Andreas Klier and Thomas Dekker.
“It’s not muscles, it’s not lungs, it’s heart,” Lance Armstrong (Ben Foster) narrates as we watch him climb a mountain…
“We literally rode up and down 50 times for each scene. Faster, slower left a bit, right a bit. One more time, one more time, OK one more time, one last time,” Barker laughed. “We sat around in cycling kit and large puffa jackets between sets at 2,000m up in the Alps.”
Behind the scenes with Barker’s team
As well as mimicking Armstrong’s riding style, Barker was given replica kit and bikes to wear and ride. “Some were actually the team bikes used at the time of the race we were recreating for the film,” he said.
“That was quite cool. Bikes have improved a lot over the last 20 years.”
However, after his stint on the big screen it’s back to racing for real: “I prefer being a real cyclist if I’m honest, although it was a great experience.”