The incoming Tour de France docu-series can only be good, right?
Netlix successfully negotiated its way into the team buses and race hotels of the 2022 Tour to set up the soap opera-action movie that all cycling fans want to see.
Just like the “Drive to Survive” series did for F1, a “fly on the wall” of the Tour de France will blow down doors typically shut to the media and could paint pictures more vivid than any number of bland press conferences and canned media moments.
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So, what are some of the storylines we hope to see when Netflix dives behind the scenes of the world’s biggest bike race?
I’m no Spielberg, but here are five plotlines I’d explore if I were holding the production chief’s clapper-board.
Ineos Grenadiers under the microscope
The best character in “Drive to Survive” is the beleaguered Team Haas boss Günther Steiner, right?
The expletive-loaded manager is the star of the motorsport show in his constant battle to keep sponsors paying and stop his minnow team from sinking. He’s always in a corner and always earning viewers’ affections, despite his all-too-obvious faults.
Some of the best stories emerge when teams or personalities are battling against adversity.
Ineos Grenadiers is no way as far off the back of the pro peloton as American F1 team can be in motorsport.
But let’s face it, the one-time superpower of cycling and tyrant of the Tour needs to do something special to restake its spot at the top of the WorldTour hierarchy. It’s lost its grip on the maillot jaune and seems doomed to be third-best behind UAE Emirates and Jumbo Visma with its underdog trio of Adam Yates, Dani Martínez and Geraint Thomas.
Team Sky/Ineos has long been the source of antagonism and suspicion. The squad’s mix of supremacy and secrecy earned it few fans.
A rare journey onto the team bus in one of the team’s most crucial Tour campaigns in years could reshape perceptions and earn affection. That the team is one of the eight willing to open its doors to the cameras in itself suggests a shift from the mid-2010s Dark Star era of scary black buses and sheening of superiority.
Sir Dave Brailsford may not become the next Günther Steiner, but the Brit’s battle against adversity will be just as intriguing as the Haas manager’s mission to keep his team moving.
Unraveling the riddle of Roglič
Primož Roglič is a storyline unto himself.
The Jumbo-Visma captain crumbles as much as he crushes when he’s in the saddle, and is as brilliant as he is boring in post-race interviews. He’s one of the richest characters in pro cycling, and one that could have so much more to give.
Teammates depict Roglič as both a comedian and a source of constant inspiration, and television footage shows his “cool dad” capers with young son Lev. But he still carries the albatross of his Tour de France defeats and the two-word monotone that characterized his post-stage chatter in seasons past.
Three weeks as a fly-on-the-wall of the “Rogo show” could unravel the Roglič riddle once and for all.
What lies behind the dead-panning personality and ski jumping celebrations? And just how deep is his blossoming bromance with Wout van Aert?
Here’s hoping the “Box to Box” production crew lifts the lid, once and for all.
A cobblestone stage of a grand tour makes for the ultimate “watch between your fingers” TV.
It’s a day where yellow jersey dreams could deflate in seconds, and a rare chance to watch the likes of Nairo Quintana and Thibaut Pinot pedaling on the punishing pavé.
An episode focusing on whippety climbers bumping and bouncing over the harsh stones of the Roubaix region in stage 5 of this year’s Tour packs the potential for more tragedy, triumph, shock and surprise than the finest Shakespearian tragicomedy.
Cameras poking around team buses ahead of the stage out of Lille will make for an unwelcome presence for some GC guys and featherweight mountainmen. Many riders will be loathing the prospect of a trip over the pavé just as much as the spectators will be loving it.
Capturing those pre-stage jitters will lay bare personalities in a way no amount of interviews or press conferences ever could, and the contrasting stoke of the same squad’s burly cobbles-bashers will bring light to balance the shade.
And the post-stage footage?
Keep your tissues close at hand, because it could be a tear-jerker. It’s more than likely some GC dreams will turn to stone when the roads turn toward Arenberg this summer.
Wherever Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl manager Patrick Lefevere goes, drama follows.
Lefevere has a penchant for stirring the pot and kicking up a stink at every available opportunity, holding court on issues that both do and don’t affect him with blunt antagonism and old-school honesty.
The team boss is unlikely to be on Tour for three full weeks, but it’s a dead-cert he’ll dive in for a few days. It’s the type of opportunity the media-savvy staffer wouldn’t miss.
And when Lefevere does land, Netflix can be guaranteed fire and brimstone when things go wrong, and chest-beating “Wolfpack” rhetoric when it goes right.
And maybe there’s another, easygoing, side to Lefevere that only an on-bus camera could capture?
It seems unlikely, but I love the idea of Quick-Step’s daddy wolf turning into a loving, laughing cuddly cub when his guard drops. Either way, the Lefevere episode is a shoo-in for success.
Pinot, pro cycling’s ultimate tragic hero
Thibaut Pinot has been writing his own melodrama since a knocked knee saw his tearful abandon in the 2019 Tour.
Since then, it’s mostly been the darkest of dramas for the troubled French climber. A 2020 Tour torpedoed by back problems made for a prologue to a 2021 struggling with soreness so bad he sat out racing all summer.
Pinot became cycling’s ultimate tragic hero, the all-too-human figure that looks cursed by bad luck.
It’s only some two and a half years later that cycling’s own “King Lear” seems coming back from the wilderness. His injuries are nearly over, and the Tour is back on the schedule.
Having cameras tracking Pinot’s return to his home race and the expectant embrace of French fans promises so many possibilities and plotlines.
Another Tour de France tragedy would make for true heart-break TV. But a return to the Pinot of old would be the type of cozy Sunday night viewing that even your nan would tune in to.