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Tour de France: Unchained Review

The Netflix Tour de France series is out. It’s entertaining at times but don’t expect any great insights or art.

Warning: spoilers

There are eight episodes, typically 40 minutes but one is 34, another 49 minutes. Each tells a story from the 2022 Tour de France rather than the story of the whole race.

Episode 1 is the grand départ in Denmark and showcases the Quick-Step and EF teams. We see the Copenhagen time trial with Quick-Stepper Yves Lampaert setting the fastest time. EF are then presented as the underdogs and tension builds to see if Stefan Bissegger can beat him, only for hopes to be crushed when he crashes. But check the start list and Bissegger was the eighth rider off with Lampaert racing an hour and a half later. So this is not a documentary, as in a filmographic attempt to document reality, it’s more about using last summer’s footage for drama. This crosses a line, whether it’s worthy of a 50 Swiss franc fine or a four year ban depends what you’re expecting.

This reworking of the 2022 Tour de France is enhanced in other ways. Watch the French version (recommended, with subtitles of your choice) and it has lively audio commentary from Alexandre Pasteur, France Télévisions’ lead presenter so to French audiences it sounds like the TV coverage of the Tour. Only if you watch recordings of FranceTV, it’s not the same. Insteat it appears Pasteur has voiced a scripted, spiced-up commentary ex post. It’s one of several techniques deployed to dope the entertainment.

There’s fast-paced editing, often two or three seconds before an image changes and if there is a moment of pathos, Thibaut Pinot can say something profound, then – cut – it’s onto the next scene. Similarly the editing can slant a story, we know Wout van Aert is not happy with the way he’s portrayed. Apart from a few bars of Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” the soundtrack is less musical and more a supply of emotional cues: lighter scenes have higher notes from a piano or rousing strings, drums pound for action and when something ominous might happen out comes the dark horn.

Episodes have their didactic moments about Tour de France with ex-pro Steve Chainel the talking head, maybe an unusual pick as he’s a cyclo-cross specialist to some but he’s a charismatic commentator on French Eurosport these days. Sporza TV called the series “cycling for dummies” and they have a sophisticated cycling audience in Flanders but these parts aren’t too clunky. If anything they’re not Road Racing 101, more a reminder it’s a team sport. It’s as if viewers are expected to have a some knowledge already and for all the talk of Netflix luring new audiences it feels like the target viewer might be younger than the Tour’s demographic, but in Bordeaux or Bristol rather than Bangalore.

It’s packed with race footage and France in the height of summer viewed from the skies looks stunning, other sports series can’t compete here. The Lacets de Montvernier appear so often they could be renamed the Hairpins of Netflix. There’s a lot of the stage starts at the expense of the racing. Take the crucial Col du Granon stage from Episode 4, we have riders going to sign-on, gathering on the start line, the attendant spectators, riders pedalling in the bus paddock, the riders clipping into their pedals, the dash-cam from the lead car as race radio announces the start. Maybe it’s needed to establish opening tension and signal the show is about to begin but all these shots come at the expense of the race footage, there’s no sign of Wout van Aert’s attack at the start, nor Christophe Laporte’s moves on Col du Télégraphe, both show Jumbo-Visma as a whole getting to work on Tadej Pogačar and his yellow jersey.

The episodes have a formula: a rider is introduced, there’s footage of them at home or a training camp and this builds into the story of how they will win, via the team work, some talking head commentary from the team boss, a team briefing on the bus, the race gets underway, we see anxious managers in the team car and the eventual glory. This works for a couple of episodes and Fabio Jakobsen’s comeback from Tour de Pologne trauma is a story worth telling. But it’s soon predictable that a character being introduced is on their way to triumph.

Following one or two riders at a time in an episode keeps the cast simple but it’s striking how many riders end up on the cutting room floor despite the emphasis on team sport. Squads like EF and Jumbo-Visma feature a lot but good luck finding footage of stage winners Magnus Cort or Christophe Laporte. And rivals barely exist. The exception is Tadej Pogačar who features in the footage but always as a third person. A pity given Pogačar is a protagonist and personality alike but inevitable given UAE declined to take part, apparently they wanted control over the final cut.

UAE need not worry for Season Two as the “inside” footage is tame, plenty of cyclists naked from the waist up but few revelations. Cameras inside team cars can add to the drama but there’s only so many times you can watch managers banging the dashboard in rage, or high fives and relief when there’s a win. It’s spontaneous but deployed so often to make these scenes feel interchangeable as if there’s an algorithm at work:

if( !exists(rider crash)(rider mechanical)(rider victory) )
{run team car reaction video}

With film makers getting access the hope was for more revelations but it doesn’t feel like you’re sitting inside team bus (nerds can pause to read the Powerpoint slides in the background). Here Netflix is just showing us teams hatch plans before a stage, rather than lifting the lid on the actual strategies and how they’re formulated. During a massage Geraint Thomas tells his DS Stephen Cummings he isn’t keen for Tom Pidcock to attack on the stage to Alpe d’Huez because of his GC ambitions, but it’s one line rather than a discussion, let alone an argument and – cut – onto the next scene; later Van Aert says he wants to go for a stage after the team management declare everyone is working for Vingegaard and it’s interesting how the staff don’t have an answer in the moment but – cut – onto the next scene.

It’s at its best when it slows down, for example visiting riders at their home or on a training camp and the protagonist of the episode gets more time to introduce themselves. Ag2r Citroën directeur sportif Julien Jurdie shows off tattoos on his torso, one records his team’s win Tour de France team competition and if you think that’s passionate, he wells up how the team has become a second family, but it’s a detail for a Christmas Quiz rather than a jawdropper. There is new video from the race, for example Fabio Jakobsen on the Col de Peyresourde as he tries to make the time limit. There are insights, for example on Stage 20, a time trial, Jonas Vingegaard had planned to sit up on the last climb to Rocamadour in order to gift the stage win to Wout van Aert if possible, something that didn’t seem to be mentioned at the time and suggests that earlier attempts to portray Van Aert frustrating Vingegaard by wanting to race for himself may not be as true as the director wanted.

The Verdict
Vanilla, a tub of vanilla ice cream. It’s enjoyable but it’s not got much inside, it feels factory-made and relies on industrial additives for flavouring. The stunning images of the Tour de France in the height of summer and a lively edition of the race provide plenty to enjoy. Each episode is a feel-good tale of triumph over adversity where the central character comes good. Take it at this level and you can sit back and enjoy eight servings, and hopefully 95% of the viewers will.

A refrain from many after the release has been “it’s not for us”, that the series is pitched at more casual audience rather than those who follow cycling. This feels unsatisfying, a great sports documentary should appeal to everyone. Sure, the next Werner Herzog is unlikely to emerge here, and they weren’t going to make an Agnès Varda-style Les Glaneurs episode of the crowds scrapping for caravane publicitaire freebies. It’s not greedy to ask a big budget production to have a bit of art, range and subtlety.

Instead it’s just a sports-entertainment product, a clone-umentary by the same company behind motor racing’s Drive To Survive and tennis’s Break Point. Tour de France Unchained has the feel of a series made-by-numbers where each story line is as simple as possible and tension is boosted by dramatic techniques. This post-production comes on heavy, it spoon-feeds the narrative and pipes in the mood music. Like a bowl of vanilla ice cream, it’s enjoyable in the moment but rarely memorable.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • plurien Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 12:32 pm

    I enjoyed the heightened drama inherent in a sport with no regular field-of-play, where sometimes it’s narrow roads with tight turns or cobbles that comes with zoom cuts and backfield in motion/bokeh, just because it hyper-realised the spectacle that passes by so quickly. This is something to watch with someone who totally does not ‘get’ the sport, so you can provide a bit more insight, or maybe explain this really is what we do in the sport.
    I didn’t mind the narrative switching things around, but it definitely works to change your memory, so best avoid if you are a ‘facts’ person.

  • Tom Southam Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 12:45 pm

    Bristol!

  • thierry Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 1:10 pm

    Good way to sell the sport to a new audience. And Cycling is in big need of fans.

    I liked it, except the first episode.
    New images give a new perspectives. The way the sprint is present on Les champs Élysées is superb. The close up to the line, the effort in the face and the body, the stress… Wow.

    Now that the teams know how it works, the production can go more “inside” next year. It has to be progressive to let the doors open.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 3:07 pm

      The Champs Elysée sprint is great… but TV footage we get every year, although here it gets enchanced and more of a focus rather than being the last seconds of racing when everyone’s had their fill of the race. Easier said than done given the open air nature and the need to move at 70km/h… but would love to see a “Skycam” installed above a sprint finish to show the overhead in better detail.

    • Sergio Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 3:51 pm

      I disagree. To me the show was a (great) recap of last year’s Tour, but I can’t see how it will broaden the audience the same way the F1 series did.

      Granted, cycling is very complicated, but some basic aspects were not covered: the different kinds of riders and stages, the points competition, the world tour. There was the Jakobsen drama to make the cut, but it felt underexplained to me.

      The sport and the Tour would be best served by a show with more of its rich history, of course mixing in the action as it happened.

      Anyway, I liked it for the behind the curtains view and hope it gets renewed for a new season.

      • Sergio Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 3:53 pm

        Also, as mentioned in another comment below, the whole series is very French. Maybe they took for granted the international audience?

        • Cd Thursday, 15 June 2023, 10:28 pm

          It was very French and I learned that I probably would never want to be on a French team. Such empty BS constantly coming from Madiot and Jurdie. There are always the stories that the French teams often lack a bit of modern professionalism and this only seemed to reinforce that.

          • Mike Landmann Friday, 16 June 2023, 10:26 am

            Agreed, I was waiting for Madoc to talk about why seagulls follow the trawler…

          • GingerTart Tuesday, 20 June 2023, 12:39 pm

            Agreed. The scene of Madiot speaking to his team during a team meeting, trying to motivate them to work for their leader and to win for the team, simply showed him as a bad manager, he’s hierarchical, wooden and aggressive and unable to inspire his troops. If this is a French style of management (and I observed similar while living in France for 5 years) it doesn’t seem to be working for any of the French teams at the moment.

    • Paul J Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 10:47 am

      The teams are already used to documentary teams following them. Particularly Jumbo-Visma – I’ve seen Merijn Zeeman in “Tour de Bauke” years ago (Blanco to Belkin), and last years JV documentary and XYZ. There are films on CSC, Gibney’s film following Lance in Astana, the Schleck’s in Leopard Trek. Jumbo-Visma DS was a rider on Leopard Trek that year, though, don’t think he’s in the film, but he surely would have gleaned some insights from those in the team who were?

      tl;dr: Docu’s embedded in cycling teams aren’t new, and JV staff definitely have experienced them before. 😉

    • Michelle Thursday, 15 June 2023, 3:37 am

      I LOVED it!!! Been watching the TDF since 99. Most people don’t understand my obsession but are interested in the race. This beautifully wraps it up in a nice package for all the understand the intricacies of this epic race.

  • Richard S Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 1:13 pm

    I’m probably alone in not really getting the point. I watched the race and know what happened.
    What is annoying me a bit is how much it is getting hyped. Way more than any actual live bike race ever has been. Its been all over social media for weeks.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 3:14 pm

      I suppose it’s Hollywood coming to the Tour de France… although the series is quite French at times, a lot of French staff on the credits roll, the focus on Ag2r, Pinot, Gaudu.

      Plus the teams are involved so they’re bound to push it. The release of the series was a bit like one of those days when Velon announces something and each member team has to post messages about it.

      • Larry T Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 5:55 pm

        Who bankrolled this thing? Watching it I could only figure ASO did..or at least provided all the copyrighted stuff to the producers in exchange for pretty much total control? And I’d guess they got say over the final cut as well by the looks of it. “23 Days in July” is looking better and better for tonight!!!

        • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 5:59 pm

          Presumably Netflix pays for it all, it’s content and they need to attract and retain subscribers by offering more shows to watch. I wonder if ASO and the teams get a slice of this although for teams just being able to tell sponsors “we’re on Netflix too” is a calling card, likewise for ASO who get the Hollywood treatment and the rest of the calendar doesn’t.

          • Guest Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 8:23 pm

            Not sure what maths logic cyclingnews applied in this article but the sums paid to the 8 teams who signed up to this production are paltry if their information is correct.
            Barley enough to cover Wouts hairstyling for the show which it has to be said looks fantastic!

            https://www.cyclingnews.com/news/netflix-tour-de-france-documentary-release-confirmed-for-june-8/

            I watched first 3 episodes with English audio track. Very strange manufactured race commentary track which I found off putting but some of the up close in the peloton footage is superb..

    • J Evan Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 8:27 am

      You’re not alone, Richard.
      Especially as they don’t even show the race as it was, ‘dramatising’ reality.

    • MS Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 2:52 pm

      My best an most boring guess is that in this day and age of algorithm television live cycling (and other sports such as Formula 1) doesn’t quite provide the drama that the computers over at Netflix tell the people over at Netflix that the consumers crave. This is not art because there is no artistic intention. This is not a documentary, because there is no intention of documentary. This is only $ and we are fools for watching this rather than re-watching The starts and the water carriers or just tune in on the Tour de Suisse.

  • Lanterne_Verte Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 1:17 pm

    Oh but an Agnes Varda documentary about the Tour would have been magnifique! Her ”Faces Places” was a seminal cinematic moment for me, ”Les Glaneurs” also a big favourite. Thanks for this honest review, I dipped into episode one last night and found it a bit obnoxious, that impression combined with this review has me thinking I might save it for the off season or perhaps forget about it altogether.

    • The Inner Ring Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 3:25 pm

      One problem here was reviewing it, it’s easier to sit back and watch without trying to think too much about the soundtrack, who it’s aimed at etc.

      If you can save it, why not as there’s a lot of racing now but the pre-Tour lull could also be a good time to revisit. There’s also variety in the episodes, cycling fans might like some of the later episodes, the first one tells stories we’ve heard many times over.

      • Dawnstar Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 7:47 pm

        When is the pre-Tour lull? I was rather horrified to realise Eurosport is showing 4 different men’s stage races Thursday-Sunday this week. How on earth is anyone supposed to have time to watch 4 stage races per day?!

        • CA Thursday, 15 June 2023, 2:22 pm

          Haha… I know. The racing season only takes a step back in November!

    • hoh Friday, 16 June 2023, 12:21 pm

      Or put it in the background when doing a hard intervals on turbo trainer. At that point, it’s just some cycling in the background. It might even help you get through that hard interval.

  • DB Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 1:17 pm

    Actually enjoyed it for what it is, thought some of the race footage was excellent and gives non racers a view into the speed and mayhem in a bunch.

  • Larry T Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 4:11 pm

    I agree 100% with the review after watching this mock-u-series. Took a lot of time to tell a simple story…too much IMHO. And they more-or-less left out the most engaging personality in the sport in the process. So what if UAE declined to participate! Hard to believe there wasn’t enough video already owned by ASO and Co. (post race interviews, etc.) to make a decent story out of the 2023 Tour.
    I’m going to watch “23 Days in July” tonight….it was all I could think about while wading through this thing. If this is what “Drive to Survive” was like I’m glad I skipped it.

    • Michael B Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 8:37 pm

      I watched an episode of Drive To Survive and just couldn’t get into it at all. The culture and aesthetics of the sport are not for me, so it’s difficult to engage with the personalities beyond it. I suspect you’d hate it, Larry.

      • Tovarishch Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 10:29 am

        I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  • Broke n Spoke Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 4:41 pm

    Spot-on review. I appreciate what the creators are aiming for: a combo of flashy images for the TikTok crowd, a narrative that loosely follows the race and some emotional content (and not all episode protagonists are victorious – Pinot gotta Pinot).
    My non-fanatic partner appreciated the insights into life in the peloton (and team bus) and she begrudgingly expressed respect at the well-worded explanation that the TdF is the toughest ultra distance event in the world, a line I’m sure will come in handy when I arrive late at work yet again in July.
    Final obs – it’s so Hollyflix that ‘Coeur du Peloton’ translates to ‘Unchained’

  • Cascarinho Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 6:54 pm

    After reading a few opinions about it, I don’t think I will watch it because I’m pretty sure I will get more frustrated and irritated than entertained. I really almost have an ethical problem with this kind of so-called “documentaries” that are ready to bend or change the reality when it’s not going their way, or to make it more dramatic ; you will tell me it’s not so important and it’s just a cycling race, but recent historical examples on Netflix show that it’s not just about sports… At least with sports it’s easy to see the manipulation. Plus the feeling that Hollywood and Netflix are more and more taking all their viewers for little children who needs oversimplified stories, same images 10 times, repetitions and long explicit explanations to understand something. Let’s not mention the Godzilla music for some men in lycra trying to pedal up a mountain.
    Alexandre Dumas, well-known author of Les Trois Mousquetaires, said : “the rape of history is allowed on the condition that you give her beautiful children” ; I’m not sure that these industrial, cloned and miseducated little kids are children as enjoyable as d’Artagnan or Porthos…

    • mads Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 7:07 pm

      well said man

  • Michael B Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 7:20 pm

    I’ve seen the first couple of episodes and for all the flaws I did enjoy them. Readers of this blog are probably way down the target audience, in reality. No idea what the average Netflix viewer makes of it or if it will convert them. Probably not.

    As others have pointed out there’s a lack of clarity on some things – a huge focus on WVA / Jakobsen but no explanation of what the green jersey is. Loads of focus on Lampaert in yellow but not even sure it explained how he lost it?

    Skipping over Magnus Cort’s KoM efforts in Denmark seamed a missed opportunity to explain that competition and introduce him as he’s a character that could have been a major part of this series (maybe he is later or didn’t want to).

    Lastly, I know crashing is a major part of cycling and it’s fair play including the major ones which are relevant to the story – Jakobsen, Roglic etc – but there was a bit of a fetishism around it all with loads of minor ones replayed. Felt a bit cheap and while it might draw TV eyeballs I don’t think anyone really gets into the sport because of crashes longer term.

  • Madvillain Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 9:09 pm

    I tried watching but was fast forwarding to get some of it over with. The race footage was good but there was too much of this. Felt like watching GCN highlights + teams social media output and nothing. Massively disappointing.

  • Simon A Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 10:18 pm

    I’ve enjoyed it on the whole, even if it doesn’t really offer much new insight. However, to paraphrase Mr Ring, it’s not really aimed at the reader of a niche cycling blog.

    I guess for season two what I’d like to see are some of the lesser told stories of the tour – maybe an episode following the grupetto on a mountain stage or an episode focusing on the pressure of a WC team to get riders in a break every day

  • Duncan Lally Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 11:02 pm

    “The Lacets de Montvernier appear so often they could be renamed the Hairpins of Netflix. “😂😂😂😂 The Granon épisode did justice to I’m guessing one of the greatest days of TdF cycling ever.

  • gabriele Tuesday, 13 June 2023, 11:46 pm

    Movistar > Netflix movie stars ^__^

    • CA Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 2:31 pm

      I agree, the Movistar series was more interesting.

      I think the first problem with this is they were trying to make this Drive to Survive, but that show had something special that this doesn’t. I wish they took the good parts and built on them. Eg. The Tom Pidcock Alpe win could have been shown in more detail… my friend who isn’t a cycling fan would have gone nuts if he fully saw the insanity of that descent.

      Or, some of WvA’s rides were insane how he shredded the peloton. I wish they went in more detail. Quickly switching doesn’t really capture it.

      • gabriele Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 2:52 pm

        Agreed on your specific examples.
        I remember a recent very short home-made clip which got decent success on Twitter showing in detail how Ganna alone came back on the front and closed a split, in Ti-Ad I think (not sure).
        Repeat, focus, add slo-mo, highlight what you must look at through comment, and even an accidental relatively low quality take (it was a far shot from above) can become a great piece of filmed cycling. Imagine if you have the in-race means!

  • John I Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 12:31 am

    What killed my enjoyment most was the overly-dramatic music and the fake commentary, which is even worse when dubbed into English – (thanks to whoever tweeted the tip of going with French w/subtitles). And the director asking Pinot – “OK, now go tend to your goats while in full cycling kit”. Oof.

    Maybe they could hire Cosmo Catalano to direct next year? I’d watch eight hours of that.

    • Noel Thursday, 15 June 2023, 12:28 am

      +1 on Cosmo

  • EricS Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 1:17 am

    Vanilla ice cream or maybe candy floss. Nothing in depth really. The biggest issue however was watching with English dubbing. It’s a fairly constant theme with Netflix that whomever they use for the dubbing just doesn’t get the drama, intonation and tining correct – it feels like dubbing by AI. I need to give the sub-titled version a go

    • WillC Saturday, 17 June 2023, 8:48 pm

      Exactly this. I’ve watched 3 episodes, for the rest I’ll go for a French with English subtitles

  • CA Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 3:20 am

    *I haven’t read the full preview and am only on episode 5, but I like the series so far.

    This isn’t Drive to Survive – as an avid F1 fan since the 90’s when I was a kid, I thought that Netflix series was amazing. If you expect that type of exciting action, then this isn’t for you. But, even as a huge fan, I think this series is pretty solid.

  • StevhanTI Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 6:55 am

    Thanks for the extensive review, still not getting a Netflix subscription then.

  • Bart Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 7:23 am

    I have yet to watch it, but I was hoping for some comparisons to the Least Expected Day, which is in my opinion an excellent series especially for dedicated fans that gives a good glimpse of the inside emotions. How do these two compare? From the description above, I read that Unchained is very dull, and in a way similar to every video published by the teams on YouTube following win/drama etc.

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 8:33 am

      As a quick comparison I’d say Least Expected Day is a template for this with the race footage, in-car cams and management talking heads, but it takes time to build the stories rather than spoon-feeding them in a hurry, each episode follows the next so things develop over time. Also there’s more on team tactics and the relationships between riders and management, it’s more thought-provoking. In short it’s less slick but more profound.

      • Michael B Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 10:06 am

        I found the timelines on Least Expected Day really weird – I don’t know what a non-cycling fan would have made of it. From memory it seemed to jump from the Vuelta to the Spring Classics to the Tour and maybe even back to the Giro again. It definitely wasn’t linear.

        • gabriele Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 1:25 pm

          I watched with elder relatives, absolutely not cycling fans, and they didn’t have much problem with that. They simply didn’t try to imagine or think about a calendar and focussed on characters and human situations. I must say that I helped answering some questions when they happened to need more input.

          • Michael B Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 3:08 pm

            Yeah, I suppose it makes sense that those unfamiliar with cycling’s calendar wouldn’t have a problem with that. I would’ve preferred it to be chronological, just to see the progress through the season in a more systematic manner.

    • gabriele Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 1:21 pm

      The Least Expected Day adds up to the experience of having watched a cycling season, this doesn’t (at least not for me).

      It’s more like a substitute. I must say it got me so bored I couldn’t watch much, and I ended up jumping back and forth which isn’t the best way to consume a cultural product (although it ultimately worked great for me with Mann’s Faustus).

      The Least Expected Day had some – careful, far from “all the time through” – really emotional moments which in my case could prompt some authentic laugh or tear (“authentic”, as in “I’m laughing because this *is* funny, not because the director inserted a good deal of elements which tell me that this is supposed to be funny, so I really should feel amused now”, same for sadness of course).

      Absolute non-fans were moved, for example, by Norsgaard in women Roubaix or by Landa speech about, well, the general idea of not winning at the end of the 2019 Giro, or by Soler finishing a stage in a lot of pain (and a broken bone I think) to show he’s no quitter as he feels he was being seen as.
      Fans could have great insights about AVV’s TDF, the López-Mas relation at the Vuelta in great detail, Mas issues with descending, the team details which turn an ITT in an absolute fail etc.

      I could’t feel much emotion with what I watched of TDF Unchained and it didn’t add much insight, either, for anyone who had watched the race and followed cycling media last July.

      • Larry T Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 5:31 pm

        IMHO the only interesting/passionate people in this thing were Madiot and Pinot. Far too many of the others seemed only passionate about making money…commerce vs sport.
        One other thing that struck me was the DS and the radios. If that’s the best evidence of the “need” for radio earpieces (so the DS can yell C’MON a bazillion times) they can come up with, I don’t see how they can be justified in any way/shape/form.

        • Cd Thursday, 15 June 2023, 10:01 pm

          I still think there’s a lot of utility in radios but FFS if I was a rider I’d pull my earpiece out all the time. The DS’s all seem to think they’re actually achieving something with all the constant shouting and cheap encouraging platitudes. If I was on the team I’d tell them to shut up.

          • Lee Monday, 19 June 2023, 10:16 am

            Yep – am now convinced that when you see riders reaching for their radio on a climb, they’re not asking for info, they’re just telling the DS to be quiet

        • Ormonde Sunday, 18 June 2023, 1:35 pm

          I was also struck by the inanity of the DSs and their radio exhortations….. I was led to believe that Ineos ran a sophisticated operation, but it seemed to consist of Cummings saying it’s f’ing hatd, and keep going to the top – bloody hell, I could do that!

          • D Evans Monday, 19 June 2023, 7:40 pm

            It would seem that this series has proved Larry’s assertion that radios add nothing of value, and it would probably be no loss if they were banned!

        • MS Tuesday, 20 June 2023, 11:27 am

          I’m no fan of race radios either but to be fair the series is surely not edited to provide a solid defense of their use. I’m sure the creators thought that the cliche yelling made for good TV.

          • noel Tuesday, 20 June 2023, 12:15 pm

            it wasn’t just the radios… the sheer repetitive nothingness of the pre-stage DS chats…’it’s going to be tough today guys…it’s important to be near the front… don’t forget to eat and drink… look after the GC guys..’ etc etc etc – no wonder the riders (who have all been doing this since about the age of about 10) sit there in a bored silence…

            there must be more to it than that surely? or are we just seeing the dumbed down for Netflix stuff here?

  • Ba-ba Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 7:59 am

    I’m quite enjoying it as a bit of froth and to remind me what he opened last year (my time to watch and digest cycling has diminished in the last year or so – I read here and a quick look at the GCN YouTube highlights mainly), and it’s good watching as my newborn sleeps on me on an afternoon. The behind the scenes insights are nice but fairly superficial. The talking heads bits are good. But the horrible affected commentary on the race section (on the English dubbed version at least) are incredibly clunky, lacking in context and phrasing. This was most highlighted by the pronunciation of the ‘s’ in Paris-Roubaix in an early episode, and there have been a few more clangers since.

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 8:35 am

      The commentary on the races seems to be the same script but while Alexandre Pasteur reads it like he’s doing live TV of the crucial moments of the race, the English voice over with the Scottish accent is more matter of fact, less urgent.

  • Matt F Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 9:28 am

    For goodness sake, the Netflix series is entertaining, a fascinating insight to some of its protagonists and can only be good promotion for the sport. Whilst we love the inrng’s forensic analysis and commentary, I think he’s missed the mark with this review.

    • KevinK Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 10:44 am

      The audience for Inring’s reviews is cycling insiders and serious fans of the sport (like those commenting here). This wasn’t written for ‘TV Guide’ (does that sill exist?!). I haven’t started watching this series yet, but this review gives me enough info to know that I’ll probably enjoy watching it, that it’ll give me plenty of moments to feel superior to the series’ writers/directors, and that it may have enough general appeal that my wife might watch some of it with me (she was bored by Least Unexpected Day and quickly bailed).

      I agree with you that this is likely good promotion for the sport, or at least for the TdF, and I’ve already had several non-cycling friends ask me if I knew about it and I got the sense they might check it out. I think the people missing the mark here are some of the commenters expressing fauxrage that this doesn’t live up to their standards or hopes. That’s fair enough, but frankly I’ve virtually never seen any film or television production to justice to a subject about which I’m an expert. Expecting that from people creating an entertainment product that needs wide appeal is a bit much. That said, I greatly admire the excellent documentaries I’ve seen, ones where the filmmakers really immersed themselves in the subject and weren’t trying to do a by-the-numbers sports show (which do indeed have a mind-numbing array of tropes and cliches, as Inring has detailed). There have been excellent documentaries on cycling in the past, and it’s a shame that there hasn’t been a really recent one, but we’re not likely to get that from Netflix. I kind of wonder if it’s possible at all in today’s world. Major sponsors want total control of their images, and sponsors like UAE and I’m sure many others are never going to allow a warts-and-all viewing of how the sausage is made, if you’ll forgive me mangling and mixing metaphors.

      • gastrogeorge Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 10:58 am

        Exactly this. I’ve a friend who worked for BBC Natural History, and of course occasionally he will talk to his friends about how his films are made, etc. And so now we can never watch a wildlife programme on TV without a bit of pointing and sniggering.

    • Wednesday Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 11:00 am

      I´m afraid I can´t help thinking that, oh boy, it is not the Inrng who has missed the mark here!

      Reviews are written for an audience of readers and the Inrng – who knows his readers – has done just that.

      In other words, he has given us a rather good picture of what we should not expect – and pointed out things that we might find rewarding to watch all the same.

      And he has left the judgement whether or not to watch it for us to make. That is rarer in reviews than it may seem 🙂

      • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 11:07 am

        There’s no right or wrong, my review here isn’t a stone tablet sent down from the top of a mountain, just a collection of thoughts having sat down to watch the series a couple of times. Just sharing it with readers and as with all things on taste etc, we can have different views and things are better for it.

        But I think it could be more enjoyable without the idea in the background to review it, to suspend critical thought and just watch. I’d be fascinated to know the audience numbers, are lots of people from around the world selecting this series? But it seems Netflix doesn’t release a lot of audience data.

      • MattF Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 11:48 pm

        I’ve been a reader of inrng for many years and I know his readers from the nature of the commentary. I’m not in the least bit surprised that some of his readers will shun the Netflix series simply because it doesn’t meet their expectations as art or show enough in-depth understanding of the sport. Open your mind I say.

        • gabriele Thursday, 15 June 2023, 11:09 am

          I’d rather say that those who’ll need to open their mind quite a lot will be those starting to watch a real race if they weren’t interested in cycling before and got into it through this show…

          If I can have an artisan fresh-made ice cream down the street, why should I open my mind, or mouth, to the industrial version whose nature and content isn’t actually determined by any desire to meet the needs of the public, but, let’s be frank, is rather about cutting costs and achieving mass production and logistics, plus pushing down the quality level in order to have the consumers adapt and progressively accept lower and lower standards?
          Netflix works as most mass goods production-distribution systems: start with something decent or directly fine at a relatively low price or easy access, kill the competition through dumping and high-cost marketing barriers, then just keep the name or the appearance or the idea of the product while quality goes down and profit goes up, until the product becomes really a surrogate of sort. Then tell everybody that the latter is what “people” themselves like or want or ask for, while the original once perfectly fine, acceptable and sustainable product is now being sold for an absurd price tag and hence associated with “elite”.
          Do you really think people couldn’t afford an artisan ice cream before the industrial one came to the supermarket? Do you really think that people don’t like better the former? (Same for, say, wool, furniture and uncountable other examples).

          • gastrogeorge Friday, 16 June 2023, 1:05 pm

            Nice post, gabriele. This is why this blog is so great.

          • ZigaK Friday, 16 June 2023, 6:30 pm

            The process that is described here by Gabrielle is also called enshitification by Cory Doctorow: “… first, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves …”
            pluralistic(dot)net/2023/01/21/potemkin-ai/#hey-guys

    • gabriele Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 1:38 pm

      Is it (good promotion)? I’m not sure a person who liked this a lot without having had any previous interest in cycling would now *watch the TDF*, as in actually watching the live broadcast, and come away happy, like, I’m really going to follow this sport…

      The main good aspect I notice is perhaps making some figures better known in advance, which I believe to be paramount to better enjoy the sport. But this was far from well-developed, too.

      I get the point about, look, these people wouldn’t have even taken into consideration cycling as a sport, so 1% of them become curious and starts watching races, then 1% of that really appreciates the racing and stays… while you don’t actually lose anything. So, marginal gains, what’s not to like? Not much, I guess. I just hope that the people who produced the series, having such a poor grasp of the spark of the sport, or at least poor ability to funnel it through, don’t end up being considered as “stakeholders” of sort, or trying to have a say leveraging on money.

  • Brunnchen Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 1:26 pm

    Whereas F1’s DTS covered the whole of the sport, predictably, and sadly, cycling’s Netflix series has concentrated solely on the Tour. All nice but doesn’t convey the stories in the lead up the race. How the riders got there, their prep races, the training camps, etc And what they do post Tour….

    It just reinforces the idea to ‘non fans’ that cycling seems to be all about 3 weeks in July…….

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 7:38 pm

      That’s true but I suspect a lot of people who enjoy other races came into the sport via the Tour de France so if this series does pump up the Tour, some of the interest will follow to other races. How much new interest it generates in the Tour, we’ll see, let alone how many stick around for more but some are bound to.

      • tnhenry Thursday, 15 June 2023, 2:02 am

        My perspective from the US as a longtime fan of the sport and reader of Inrng – most of the friends I ride with stopped following the pro tour post Big Tex – they just totally lost interest. When I mention to non-cycling friends that I ride they inevitably bring up Lance. He still looms large.

        I know next to nothing about F1, but watched quite a bit of DTS and was entertained. I suspect a true F1 fan would point out all sort of ridiculous plot lines and inconsistencies, and that’s ok. I now know most of the names involved and pay more attention to the sport than, well, ever….

        That’s my hope for Unchained. That given the reach of Netflix in the States, it loops in some casual viewers and brings back cyclists who want a new storyline. It’s not a TRUE telling of the Tour or the life of a pro. But if it generates a few more fans over here (and maybe a few less folk who actively want to run me off the road) then job well done.

    • Canocola Thursday, 15 June 2023, 9:38 am

      The same criticism can be made that Drive to Survive ignores whole swathes of motorsport though.

      Think about it: twenty or so individual races, held in different places each time, that lead to just one individual title, competed for by a relatively small selection of professionals and where teamwork is absolutely vital… but where it’s only really a tiny proportion of the whole sport. DtS follows the Tour for petrolheads, basically.

  • Jrw Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 1:46 pm

    “This feels unsatisfying, a great sports documentary should appeal to everyone. … It’s not greedy to ask a big budget production to have a bit of art, range and subtlety.”

    Absolutely. To me, this is what the Flanders Classics “Ronde Treasures” series achieved. I am sad that they no longer seem to be making them, and I also wish the production team responsible for them had been the ones to make this series, imagine what they could have done with the Tour.

    I often suggest those documentaries to people new to the sport and they are always well received. I’m not the most voracious consumer of filmed cycling content, but it’s easily the best I’ve seen. I think I was directed to them from this very weblog!

  • Tim Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 3:23 pm

    In my mind the best TDF team documentary was the one that Orica did a few years ago where they followed the chefs around and we get to learn all about the process by which they select their haute cuisine. Not for the riders – that’s all chicken, rice and pasta – but seeing the Chefs go from stage to stage picking out the local delicacy for the rest of the team was interesting.

  • DBC Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 5:24 pm

    Having watched (and highly enjoyed) Drive to Survive, it’s just very transparent how they’re trying to apply the same cut & paste formula to as many “niche” sports as they can.

    Aside from the obvious annoyances of the fake storylines and the fake commentary (very grating), it just doesnt work because there are 20 F1 drivers (and only 16 featured in season 1) and nearly 200 TDF riders. Focusing on a few creates all the problems listed above.

    There’s a reason why the best cycling docs focus on a team. A limited cast of characters you can follow over an extended period of time. This is just extremely bland programming. It’s not bad. It’s just not good either.

  • ChrisSk Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 6:53 pm

    I wasn’t that impressed. If I have a new friend or colleague partially interested in cycling I think I will prefer to show them the Granon stage in full, or sit down with them and watch a classic or two. Showing the 5mins of Mvdp winning Amstel or Sanremo, would give them far more insight / thrill of racing than what was presented here.

    10 minutes into episode 1 when Vaughters was introduced he couldn’t help but remind the audience he is a reformed character, doped but not a “baddy” – I get that Team EF is his redemption arc, but it’s hardly great for audience bias to link cycling to doping 10mins into episode 1. The vast majority of public already have that impression that “everyone dopes” and here’s one of the team managers basically reaffirming that assumption as the show starts.

    Poor, choppy editing and a failure to grasp that one reason why Drive to Survive worked was the story behind the racing… here I felt there was an over reliance of race footage – recapping the 2022 edition vs. showing us 8 (or 16 if 2 an episode) unique perspectives on the race – be that purpose for riding, targets… e.g. we saw Pog make moves on cobble stage why wasn’t it explored how much help he got from Bettiol? There was the calamity moment of the jumbo bike change, but I expected a better presentation of how it ‘normally’ routinely is a quick change, to allow audience to comprehend this change was a meme moment.

    I won’t mind if there isn’t a season 2.

  • MRJ Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 7:14 pm

    I had a fairly good idea of what this series was going to be about when Episode 1 started with a focus on Patrick Lefevre (ie, a strong and somewhat controversial personality), and it also try to set up tension around the question of whether to bring Jakobsen or Alaphilippe to the Tour. Which… the intrepid among us will recognize was NOT the key personnel decision that PL had to make – the dilemma was between Jakobsen and Cavendish. I’m assuming the producers preferred to have Cav as part of that storyline, but that he somehow vetoed that idea. I can’t blame the guy; I sure wouldn’t want to appear in such a film only for the purpose of highlighting my non-selection to the Tour team!

  • David Branson Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 8:11 pm

    The VOD streaming charts are interesting to look at for popularity viewing response. The link below charts Tour de France : Unchained on Netflix TOP 10 per country. For series renewals has been stated that Netflix puts a huge amount of weight into the “28 day total” viewing hours stat to rate a successful series. I am interested in seeing how overall interest measures up.
    https://flixpatrol.com/title/tour-de-france-unchained/

    • Cascarinho Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 9:05 pm

      The map is very funny to look at, thank you 🙂

  • Nick Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 8:13 pm

    I’ve enjoyed it somewhat so far, though not as much as the Movistar series. Some of the efforts to create tension seem a little forced – were Pidcock and Powless really the main rivals for the Alpe d’Huez stage? was Van Aert really jeopardising Vingegaard’s chances? – but it’s done a reasonable job in bringing out personalities.

    Clearly, the race footage doesn’t add too much, although they do seem to have done a good job on zooming in on riders’ faces when they are making particularly strenuous efforts. That seemed more noticeable to me than it does during regular footage.

  • Matthew Rogers Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 9:15 pm

    Shameless plug for our complementary project “Enter the Slipstream” – if 8 hours of TdF action is good for you, you’ll love our 87 minutes of concentrated cycling documentary about team EF’s 2020 covid-impacted season. Out on Amazon and Apple TV now!

  • Bilmo Wednesday, 14 June 2023, 9:20 pm

    All creative arts are a reflection on their creator as much as the subject. In this series the creator has told a story that is their truth. It might not be our truth but I somebody believes it or at least has interest then it value. Yes it’s not pure art, the creators are a TV company with very obvious commercial aims, but they may still have found a truth we those close to the subject didn’t see.

    I can believe the jumbo tension. Wout himself may not see it, the die hard fans might not, even the team management might not. But it could have been there. Netflix may be the only people who truly showed the tensions and feelings on that team in the tour. Or not. It still made interesting viewing.

    There was many other things I enjoyed about the series also. To pick one for now: Jasper Philipsen. A rider I knew little about, who seemed interesting, somebody who didn’t always have any easy relationship with his team, and in the series a character with a winning story arch. Based on today’s result in Belgium also one I’m sure Netflix hopes will make an excellent series 2 story alongside Jakobsen

  • Nick Furious Thursday, 15 June 2023, 5:33 am

    Some of the comments on here come from the too-cool-for-school brigade. This was aimed at those without a great deal of knowledge the Tour. It was made to encourage people into the sport. Ivspoken to several people who knew nothing about Road racing and they have all been impressed and they are all going to watch the Tour this year. Some of the attitudes on here reek of elitism and do the sport no favours. I thought it achieved what it set out to do.

    • Larry T Thursday, 15 June 2023, 8:18 am

      I keep wondering about the attitude here that the sport needs help and things need to be done to “encourage people into the sport.” Why? Unless you have some financial interest in the sport, why do you care? I have a theory that some social scientists could probably better describe – but I call it “The A-hole Factor.” The theory is doubling the size of the audience (or participants) ups the number of a-holes involved by an exponent of 10. Cycling for me is one of ’em. Back-in-the-day (in the USA) the sport was a tiny niche thing, mostly left-wing/blue collar folks who followed European racing as well as raced themselves. The A-hole Factor came into play when BigTex came on the scene and cycling became “the new golf”. That wasn’t progress IMHO, but it seems plenty here see those daze as good ones?

      • The Inner Ring Thursday, 15 June 2023, 12:05 pm

        If you like something then why not share it with other people and want other people to enjoy it?

        Sometimes more people can crowd a place, for example a beach accessed by small path down a cliff. But if more people watch the Tour de France it doesn’t crowd others out. Indeed more people watching on TV can mean better production; more people watching cycling as a whole means more races get televised, like, say, the Route d’Occitanie today which has live coverage.

        • gabriele Thursday, 15 June 2023, 12:58 pm

          I mainly agree with your take, but I’m not sure that this is the point in the case of the Netflix show (as I explained in other comments).

          That said, just to give a possible answer to your question about “why not?”, I’ll hint at the risk of speculative bubbles and unsustainable growth. I do *not* think that such risks should prevent us from ever trying to ride a wave, but it’s essential to be aware and take them into account, because when the bubble blows it often also burns away previously existing grassroots.

          The Armstrong case is a very good example – I remember many hardcore European cycling fans who hated much of what Lance brought into the sport and yet were hugely optimist about the breakthrough perspective of cycling finally landing full-fledged into USA. I frankly wasn’t (I was more optimist about his possible impact regarding cancer, ahem, just to confess that I was no all-around cynic, either, sigh!). And, at the end of the day, I think that we can say that Lance passage through cycling was a huge setback, full stop. The shocking thing is that he had already had an overall very negative impact on cycling audience *well before* he was officially caught as a doper.

          • KevinK Thursday, 15 June 2023, 8:50 pm

            Jeez, you mean there’s the possibility of cycling becoming a “speculative bubble”?! You mean like tulips or cryptocurrency? More fans are attracted because they watch a show that makes an obscure, idiosyncratic sport more accessible and, what? There won’t be room on the side of the road to watch cycle racing live anymore? What is anyone supposed to speculate on, and how could that be a bubble? We’re talking about attracting fans to a sport we enjoy. We all know that there have been many booms in bicycle sales. This has happened over and over again, but all that has ever done is help create a virtually endless supply of interesting, barely used bikes on the second-hand market. Hell, I got into cycling during one of those booms. Then I drifted away from it and came back during another little boom.

            We just had such a boom during COVID. We all know it was very hard to get bike parts and new bikes a few years ago. And now, after a shortage, there’s a glut. Economists call this the business cycle. This has happened before, and will happen again, Netflix show or no Netflix show. Cycling is a low margin business, so after each boom there are companies that a go belly up. Such is the way of the world, and many fields experience the same or worse. Better to enjoy what you can, when you can, rather than hope that the sport is perpetually stunted so that it doesn’t have as far to fall in the next bust part of the cycle.

            And odious as LA was, he was hardly the entirety of the problem with cycling in the 1990s and early 2000s. He was the poster child, yes, but the ranks of cynical, lying cheaters in Lycra were legion, and the repetitive shoes dropping (I.e., stars from every single major cycling country getting caught cheating) had a much greater effect than that nasty Texan. In fact, having such a perfect bete noir (a loud, aggressive American, checking every anti-American box a European could hope for) to blame the entire Epo-era on has allowed a lot of other skunks to hide their scent behind his big stinky cloud. Which I would argue continues to hold the sport back, because there was no real reckoning and many of those people still infest the sport today.

          • gabriele Thursday, 15 June 2023, 10:21 pm

            @KevinK
            Please, try reading again. Or not.

    • Matt F Thursday, 15 June 2023, 10:54 am

      I agree wholeheartedly.

    • MS Thursday, 15 June 2023, 11:15 am

      If elitism means to evaluate cultural products from an aesthetic perspective and not a commercial one, and on the basis of one’s own preferences and not the money-making interests of Netflix or the series’ stakeholders in cycling, then elitism is a good thing and I would love for this blog and its comments section to continue to reek of it.

    • gabriele Thursday, 15 June 2023, 12:47 pm

      Speaking of “school”, when you happen to be working also in teaching, at several levels, a question you endlessly face is this sort of commonplace assumption according to which in order to “encourage people into something” you must twist, denature or at least oversimplify it.

      It’s not like there isn’t any point at all in this (still very wrong ^__^) idea: it’s a bit of, “ok, so people have been exposed a lot to, say, maths, and if we want those who *didn’t like the thing* to still hang around and get some hint about it all, we need to try and make of it… well, a different thing!”.

      The amount of fallacies implied in this approach is notable, so I can’t even start to tackle them all one by one here, I’ll just let some different ideas flow by.

      Fast reward mechanisms are like sugar (or salt, in a way). Biochemical basic stuff will keep you hooked – but it’s addictive. And nobody in a healthy condition really does need sugar to be enticed into… simply eating, do them? Unless it’s about making you eat something you *would not reasonably eat* without sugar, because, well, it’s bad and you’d notice without sugar, or it’s too much more than you need (and please note that your body will *already* tend to go well over what you strictly need even without any “sugar push”).
      So it’s really all about force-feeding. There’s a world of difference between nourishing and force-feeding a turkey (if you prefer the USA take) or a goose (if you prefer a French foie gras).
      In the case of humans, especially babies at a very early age, the very formation of their taste is also affected by very dominant flavours. So it matters how you “encourage” people because it will mould, to a point, their future relation with that whole sphere.
      As I said, fast reward is addictive – it fast brings to a state of lack of interest and satisfaction which actually *prevents* delving much further into, well, whatever. It hinders the process of adaptation to anything new, which has its stages, some faster, some slower. No, the “baiting” tactics isn’t that good – unless, of course the perspective is that whom you bait is *the object to be consumed*, not a subject himself or herself who develops the ability to properly, actively and consciously absorb food, drinks, information, skills, cultural products, emotions or whatever.

      Secondly, sometimes we underestimate the allure of complexity. It’s like we tend to think that the only reason because people won’t like something is because they become frustrated by not easily understanding it all from scratch. Of course, that’s an existing attitude, and of course we might even believe that it’s being socially prompted (for commercial interests, obviously enough). Besides, we tend as well to think about some “things” as a whole (“maths”, “Latin”, “cycling”…), as if they didn’t have facets, some of which not really that complicated or out of reach *even if you fully respect their authentic nature*. People watching whole cycling stages because of the landscape actually grasped one very specific and paramount aspect of cycling. Don’t forget that Shakespeare went sold out and the public was not a bunch… of refined elitist. Not quite.

      So much is about the framework or the setting rather than the sheer “nature” of contents. It’s about how prepared people get to the moment (a bit like racing, huh?), but not just in terms of previous skills and information (also relevant), rather the right expectations, emotions, disposition, building up the moment. People selling industrial food (and not only industrial one) know it well enough – packaging, presentation. Netflix knows, too – but is it really necessary that within the packaging you get junk food, if you want people to start eating?

      • KevinK Thursday, 15 June 2023, 8:58 pm

        The amount of fallacies directly stated in the above comment is also notable. It’s enough to just say this show strikes you as the television equivalent of fast food, and we’ll all get it, and many will agree. You don’t need all the pseudoscientific bs to make the point.

        • gabriele Thursday, 15 June 2023, 10:27 pm

          @KevinK
          I was not speaking of the show as such, rather about the idea that a distorted and oversimplified vision of something (as more or less everybody is agreeing about this series and cycling, indeed) is apt to encourage people into the thing itself. Such an idea was applied to this show, but I was interested in discussing it as a more general pattern.
          Finally – and I’ll stop here to avoid abusing again of limited attention spans – the correct example cited above is a good deal of “normal” industrial food sold for examples in supermarket rather than junk food which can be considered an extreme version of the former, but also a way too specific case. It’s worse than that.

          • KevinK Thursday, 15 June 2023, 10:41 pm

            I understand what you were discussing and the point you were making – I was just pointing out that your post was full of fallacies.

          • gabriele Friday, 16 June 2023, 12:25 am

            Just stating that “you understood” or that “there are fallacies above” is poor discussing, especially when you just posted something which, short as it was, pretty much disproved the former.

            However, after a quick look at the dictionary and a couple of yawns (it’s late here), I’ll willingly admit that there might be fallacies in my post above in the sense of some “mistaken belief” of sort. Why not. As I clearly said in advance, it’s a flow of ideas, and intended to work through metaphors (which are always lacking in exactitude, by definition), not “a reasoning”, which would require even more space and time for a debate on the subject to be minimally serious.

            What I challenge this way is the opposite and equally unproven (to say the least) perspective or *feelnig*, better said, that is, the idea that a distorted surrogate is a good path to lure into something people with no previous interest.
            It’s not that I want to *demonstrate* anything, rather to express a point of view based on empirical long-term experience, which, as such, is very personal, and has no scientific value. I find it interesting that in my life I’ve seen people insisting again and again on the above described strategy even when it became apparent that it didn’t work. Whether it’s going to work or not in this case, I dunno. I suspect nobody does. I suggested why I’m skeptical, but I frankly don’t care.

            Now, if you’ve got anything interesting to *actually say*…

            (…I’ll read it tomorrow)

  • gm Thursday, 15 June 2023, 5:50 am

    “Unchained has the feel of a series made-by-numbers where each storyline is as simple as possible and tension is boosted by dramatic techniques.”

    While I agree with this and the points made in the post, I don’t see how else they could have produced it. They have to appeal to a Netflix audience who are, by and large, utterly unfamiliar with the sport. Comparable series on the Netflix platform tell stories of sportsmen/women overcoming struggles and predictably triumphing, and so that is expected.

    Hopefully, the next series if commissioned, will do away with the generic scene algorithm and focus less on storylines, but doubtful.

    My wife-who has absolutely no interest in the sport- says she enjoyed it though, and would watch another series.

  • Glenn Manifold Thursday, 15 June 2023, 6:58 am

    I agree that the bombastic edit detracts from telling anything of interest. But this seems to be the way a lot of media is going.

    However i’ve really enjoyed seeing race footage in 4k, it looks fantastic. How long do we have to wait for a UHD Tour de France?

    • The Inner Ring Thursday, 15 June 2023, 12:07 pm

      France TV is a bit slow here, they’ve been testing 4K now for the Rolland Garros tennis tournament with a view to a bigger push for it with the Paris Olympics next summer but you can imagine it in a stadium, a fixed arena etc. Harder for the Tour with the need for mobility, the bandwidth but in time it’ll happen.

    • TomH Thursday, 15 June 2023, 6:57 pm

      “race footage in 4k, it looks fantastic”
      Indeed! Inside the peloton scenes are fantastic with UHD 4K, on a 75-inch & up TV, from 8-9 foot viewing distance. As an amateur masters bike racer, inside the WT pro peloton looks terrifying :-O
      It’s frustrating that the GCN streaming app is not yet supported on any Roku streaming devices. IDK what the business reasons could be, GCN is vague & evasive.; it can’t be technical.

  • Liz Thursday, 15 June 2023, 7:58 am

    What is not mentioned is the limitations of 8 episodes of 35-45 minutes covering a 21 day race. THAT is the problem.

  • Canocola Thursday, 15 June 2023, 10:01 am

    I think there’s a few things that will really affect how you react to this series:

    – if you binge watch it, the formulaic nature is far more obvious

    – if you’re expecting an in depth review of how the Tour was won, you’ll be frustrated. It’s just a few stories from the Tour, not necessarily the most important ones, but neither are they uninteresting

    – if you’re expecting anything that isn’t related to trying to win a stage or trying to win the yellow jersey you’ll be disappointed. Green and polka dots don’t even get lip service. They don’t even mention why WVA keeps changing kit.

    – the cutting really is all action – it’s probably closer to the riders’ experience of the pressure moments but it’s hard to see what’s actually happening at times. It’s interested in the sensation of the sport, not the intricacies

    – if you watch with dubbing that’s on you. You’re watching a different show (Netflix really don’t highlight this though – how many people know?)

    – if you’re tuned into how cyclists work and think you can see the threads the documentary team didn’t pull. Wout being a bit of a dick at times (an hour mapping the tensions within WVA’s head during the Tour would make fascinating viewing), Geraint Thomas’ wife mentioning his crashes (big ‘oof’ from G there), whether Pinot would have done better with a more ruthless team… There lots of little moments that will confirm your suspicions, but they happen in passing.

    – David Miller’s glasses may be unduly distracting to some. That special Jumbo Visma kit gets worse with every viewing, too.

    FWIW I found it quite enjoyable, and my wife has been watching it in secret because she can’t wait to watch the next episode with our eldest child, so I think it’s finding its own audience regardless of whether that translates into a new *cycling* audience or not.

    • Cepphus Grylle Thursday, 15 June 2023, 2:13 pm

      Miller’s glasses: yes! Not to mention his cliché spouting. This must have been scripted, surely? I don’t watch ITV but I can’t imagine he’s that vacuous on air.

      • plurien Friday, 16 June 2023, 11:07 am

        He is, he really is that vacuous, and talking of air and vacuums, oxygen and publicity; less the better.

    • Gelato4bahamontes Saturday, 17 June 2023, 12:48 pm

      It’s millar.

  • Tovarishch Thursday, 15 June 2023, 11:26 am

    All I can say is that it was fortunate they didn’t bleep the expletives, otherwise there wouldn’t have been any in car footage!

  • cp Thursday, 15 June 2023, 5:04 pm

    As a filmmaker — and a doc maker at that — and a film scholar of mostly avant-garde and political cinema, I have to say that watching TdF:ACdP was like watching a highlight reel of film/doc cliches. It was brutal.

    I keep thinking: “I should show my students this scene” over and over, to show the repeated use of affective cueing with music (well noted by our host!); the horrid use of cutaways to suggest the simultaneity of a person’s response with someone speaking (the scenes with Pinot and Madiot and Gaudu used to exacerbate their tensions were pretty amazing examples of this); and so on.

    Sick in bed though I was, happy to have something less than mindless to watch, I was nonetheless glad to have the little “jump ahead 15 second” buttons, which I used to such an extent that i think I did the whole series in about 3 hours. Perhaps I missed the parts worthy of Agnes Varda or Pennebaker or Lanzmann, but somehow I’m guessing not.

  • Robin Thursday, 15 June 2023, 5:35 pm

    I’m not planning to watch it because as a cycling fanatic/nerd I don’t think I am the target audience and none of the comments here today have changed my mind.

    I do think it is a good thing and will bring new fans into the sport.

    I have my fill already with the docs on GCN+ which are the only television I watch, apart from live sport. If you’re not already subscribed I strongly recommend doing so – an amazing library of quality cycling stories

  • Sam G Thursday, 15 June 2023, 9:34 pm

    Netflix were lucky they had the team that won the GC in the end. I could see it being a complete damp squib if Pog would have won. Fingers crossed for more insight next year after educating a new audience with the first series.

  • gabriele Friday, 16 June 2023, 12:51 am

    Just a couple of lines about the “say no to elitism” stuff above.

    While discussing the subject I started to have the feeling that what’s really “elitist” is implying that people who aren’t already fans will be helped by an adulterated version of something in order to be able to finally appreciate it.

    Ok, you’re on this blog, we can reasonably assume that you’re a cycling fan, and perhaps you didn’t need a Netflix show get hooked. But apparently you suspect that there’s a mass of people out there who couldn’t endure the oh-so-hard Pai Mei learning curve we all went through, the long stages, the strange rules, the Slovenians (where’s Slovenia?), the calendar, the tactics and so on.

    Yeah, maybe. Personally, I tend to assume that people could get interested in cycling just as lots of people I know did, i.e. just being exposed to, well, cycling as it is, ending up of course with a broad range of attitudes, watching patterns, grades of interest.

    I wouldn’t exclude either that people could get interested via a different process, including the Netflix show. I just can’t get why can’t or shouldn’t it be a frankly good product in general terms.
    Or why shouldn’t one complain about its distortions and cheap effects (even the expensive ones in technical terms are often… cheap effects).
    Did they spend so much more money in the various docs about cycling which are actually fine enough, and which would have been maybe even better with Netflix’s technical means? I dunno, I’d say the other way aronud, in some cases at least, but I feel that maybe they actually spent their money *better* (human factor: having on board people in the know, people passionate with the sport… or with filming).

    Are we assuming that for “the mass” the only or best way is providing them with “fodder” (but in luxurious packaging and sugared with gross techniques as cp hinted at above)?
    Well, that’s really elitism to me, and of the worst kind.

    • D Evans Friday, 16 June 2023, 9:23 am

      I have to say, Gabriele, that I agree with your take on this. Nearly all recent documentaries, on whatever subject, seem to be afflicted with this assumption that the audience need to be kept interested by constant changes of scene, short sound-bites, and a general dumbing-down.

  • Darryl Perry Friday, 16 June 2023, 4:53 am

    I enjoyed it completely. Perhaps it didn’t fulfill the expectations of most, but as a former amateur bicycle racer I found it to be very powerful in depicting the triumphs and the depths of defeat. Looking forward to the 2023 Tour.

  • Mike Landmann Friday, 16 June 2023, 10:41 am

    I know a couple of non-cyclists who watched it and really enjoyed the series, enough to make them want to watch the highlights shows in July.

    Personally I found the series quite engaging, particularly the diverse characters.

  • plurien Friday, 16 June 2023, 11:11 am

    Ok so as someone who occasionally meets up-and-coming talent, I’ve now had my first carer say they don’t want their charge to get into road cycling. It’s because they’ve seen what it’s like on Netflix.

  • hoh Friday, 16 June 2023, 12:29 pm

    A lot of the behind the scene content is too “snappy”, but they really show you the personality of DSs and team dynamics.

    For one, it got me appreciate how British Cummings is (well, I have a British friend very much has the mannerism of him and even sports the same bald head).

    It is really intriguing. Other DS would just dictate what they want to happen. Cummings on the other hand slipped tactics in as a suggestion. You can also see that he is somewhat unease telling Thomas that he wants to give the Pidcock the opportunities to get a stage win.

  • Tovarishch Friday, 16 June 2023, 12:33 pm

    Terrible news about Gino Mäder. RIP.

    • KevinK Saturday, 17 June 2023, 8:48 am

      Yes, really terrible. Rest in peace, Gino.

  • BC Friday, 16 June 2023, 12:43 pm

    Shocking and very sad news indeed about Gino Mader. RIP. Its a tough sport indeed.

  • plurien Friday, 16 June 2023, 4:17 pm

    Routine risks are not reduced risks. So sorry.

  • rob md Saturday, 17 June 2023, 6:09 am

    Just to say I have not seen Unchained and don’t really plan on doing so as the absence of UAE makes it seem unbalanced. As whole stages from the Tour are available online, I’ll stick with them.
    In regards to TV coverage, somehow the sport has survived despite some truely atrocious commentators.
    If the whole aim was to get more Netflix subscribers or get people onto bikes, I’ll let other more informed people comment about.

  • Martijn Saturday, 17 June 2023, 1:24 pm

    It was exactly as I expected: some great footage, overly dramatized storytelling with some questionable editing. The episode about Jasper ‘Disaster’ Philipsen and Christoph Roodthoofdt’s annoyance with his add(-like?) personality was the best, being both funny and showing a really conflict. I also liked the Van Aert plot; I don’t think he should complain: it shows how he was too selfish a few times, but also that at crucial moments he was of immense value for Vingegaard.

    Other things I enjoyed: Netflix NL using the original French audio and title, Roglic’s typical dry witted refusal too play ball, eh, the plot about AG2R being irresponsible with O’Connor’s injury, Marc Madiot being Marc Madiot, and Thibaut ‘No Chill’ Pinot’s one-liner about being more popular than his talent deserves, because it’s peak Pinot.

    What I didn’t like: starting with by far the weakest episode, not showing Pogacar’s fall and Vingegaard waiting for him, leaving out the Bettiol’s sudden decision to be a domestique for Pogacar when Powless was ahead (thanks to LR podcast to reminding me of this), Lefevre suddenly being boring.

    I think it was better than the Jumbo-Visma Prime documentary, which seemed to be made by their pr department and focused to much on (happy) family life (which I think it a valid choice for just Jonas Vingegaard, because of how important it is for him), but worse than the Wolfpack Prime one, which benefitted from more tension because of the darker side of Lefevre’s and Evenepoel’s characters and Davide Bramati being absolutely hilarious.

  • gabriele Saturday, 17 June 2023, 5:07 pm

    Sorry for not following up on interesting discussions above, and probably neither on further ones for a time, but I’m under some shock for Mäder and will take a time out. Not that it makes any sense, in fact I’m still riding, but I don’t feel in the mood of talking about cycling right now. Not that I think it’s anyone fault, either, or that I’m blaming the sport. Just a heartfelt reaction. Hope to be back soon once I get over it.

  • Phil Hofmann Monday, 19 June 2023, 12:06 pm

    I expected to hate it, yet found it a super watch. I’d lost interest in pro cycling during the Sky years – and for the 20+ yrs I’d followed the sport, found the riders in the media mostly two dimensional. The footage of a mountain training ride interrupted with the rider on the roadside heaving and crying; seeing how many riders hit the deck and how often; recognizing that for the bulk of those racing the tour, disappointment is the prevalent emotion – I thought the show caught these well. From non-cyclists I know who’ve seen it, they commented that they had no idea how hard it is, how dangerous, how extreme. They definitely followed the same formula they used for Formula 1, complete with the voice over announcing “the race has begun”, but for the people who have watched Eurosport coverage and thought cycling was boring, perhaps this draws them for a second glance. This was a notch better than the typical cycling porn that’s out there. But someone please tell David Millar that wearing designer specs loses the edge when they’re crooked.

  • John I Tuesday, 20 June 2023, 6:45 pm

    The always interesting Cycling Podcast just had an episode about the series, which includes an interview with the Executive Producer of Unchained, James Gay-Rees. He says he was not a pro cycling follower prior to the project, and purposely kept himself away from it so that when he started to review and edit the footage, he could approach it as a non-fan, and have a better sense of what would interest such people. (About whom Tim Krabbé might say “The emptiness of those lives shocks me.”)

    This does explain how some basic fundamentals are missed entirely or glossed over (e.g. what’s a green Jersey?) It also means that one can hope series two might be better in that regard, since one would assume Gay-Rees will have absorbed more about what makes a race interesting to those who do follow the sport.

    Link: https://tinyurl.com/CyclingPodcastUnchained