Tadej Pogačar’s UAE Team Emirates squad has explained why it turned the chance to be part of the all-new Tour de France docu-series set to air on Netflix, citing logistical issues and a lukewarm need for added exposure at this point in time. The team has told VeloNews that the door remains open for 2023.
UAE Team Emirates was one of the original eight teams to be shortlisted for the project but it declined the invitation, as reported by VeloNews.
To some, the fact that the winner of the last two editions of the Tour de France would be missing from the series raised questions about the storylines and potential missing gaps in the eight-part project. However, just as with the Formula 1 Drive to Survive series on Netflix, not all of the top teams were involved in the inaugural season.
Andrea Agostini, the team’s chief operating officer at UAE Team Emirates, spoke to VeloNews and explained that while the project had momentum and obvious benefits for the broader cycling world, and some specific teams, it did not fit with UAE’s current position.
Logistics was one concern, especially given the fact that Netflix film crews would follow the teams and go behind the scenes weeks in advance of the race, during the grand tour, and then again after the event.
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“What I can say is that it’s a really good project. It could bring a lot of benefits to the cycling world but it throws up a lot of complications for us,” Agostini told VeloNews.
“We agreed with our owners that this wasn’t a priority for us, but maybe in the future, if Netflix leaves the door open for us, then we could jump in, but at this moment it’s not our priority.
“It’s also a matter of logistics. To have a cameraman around you all the way through the Tour de France, before the race, too, and when every team is already full. We have our own camera person, photographer, and media person, so the space on the bus isn’t so big. Sometimes having people from outside, it’s not so easy to manage. There’s no one particular reason, so maybe next year.”
Agostini likened UAE’s stance to that of Mercedes and Ferrari, after both Formula 1 teams decided not to be part of the first series of Drive to Survive. That stance changed at a later date but Agostini pointed to the fact that the Tour de France was stressful enough and that his current squad had a perfect balance internally. It was felt within the UAE team management — and ownership — that the risks outweigh the potential rewards at this point.
“It’s the same with Mercedes and Ferrari in Drive to Survive. We have a great balance right now with staff and riders, and everyone is super happy and motivated. Sometimes introducing something new could be dangerous. We pay a lot of attention to things like this because we’re a perfect machine and the atmosphere is so good. Mauro gives us great direction and we all know our jobs.”
Agostini also pointed out that teams have different priorities when it comes to exposure and publicity. Jumbo-Visma, EF Education-EasyPost, Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl, Groupama-FDJ, Ineos Grenadiers, Ag2r Citroën, Alpecin-Fenix, and Movistar are all set to feature in this year’s series but the majority of those squads have heavy commercial lead sponsorship deals, whereas UAE Team Emirates is state-owned.
UAE Team Emirates also knows that the likely scenario is that Pogačar will be competing for the yellow jersey, and that the attention the maillot jaune naturally brings from the world’s media off-sets the rewards from a streaming provider at this point in time.
“A lot of teams jump in because they need that kind of visibility,” Agostini said.
“We honestly don’t need it. If we’re lucky enough to fight for victory at the Tour again, we don’t need that visibility. I spoke to colleagues [ed., at other teams] a lot before we made a decision and they had the same doubts as me. There’s obviously nothing to hide but it’s really important to have that balance inside the team. Other teams said to me that they understand our position but they don’t have the visibility that we do. There are teams in the Tour de France who have not had the same exposure as us in the last two years, and for them, it’s really important.”