Filmed during the Grande Boucle 2022, the docu-series, called "Tour de France: Au cœur du Peloton", is released on June 8, and tells over eight episodes the conquest of the yellow jersey, the battle of sprinters, the strategy of the teams, the pieces of bravery and the incredible fervor that surrounds the biggest bike race in the world.
The series uses the same recipes that made the success of "Drive to survive" on F1, focusing on several notable characters. Like the Dutch sprinter Fabio Jakobsen, who came close to death in a horrific accident in 2020 and who we accompany in his return to the light, when he wins a stage or when he goes deep within himself to get back on time on a mountain stage.
"There is the magic of the Tour, but we are especially in a sport where there are great stories and characters that carry universal themes," said Yann Le Bourbouac'h, one of the producers of the series, in an interview with AFP.
The logo of the streaming platform Netflix, March 26, 2022 in Tokyo © CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP/Archives
He quotes Jakobsen, the Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe, who appears in an episode where he learns of his non-selection for the Tour, but also Julien Jurdié. Touching with sincerity, the sporting director of AG2R-Citroën chokes with emotion during the stage victory of his rider Bob Jungels, shows off his tattoos to the glory of the bike and cries in front of the camera when he evokes his missing father.
Doors wide open
"I hope that with the gallery of characters we have, we will be able to seduce my generation and the older ones. But also that young people will end up finding them a little sexy these galley people, "says Yann Bourbouac'h, a great fan of cycling and admirer of these "titans".
Dutch rider Fabio Jakobsen at the finish of the 17th stage of the Tour de France 2022, on July 20, 2022 in Peyragudes © Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP/Archives
To allow the Netflix teams to tell these destinies and the race from the inside, the organizers have "opened the doors wide," says Julien Goupil, director of media and partnerships at Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO).
"It's a long-term project, the first contacts date back to 2018," he says. We are the ones who made the approach with the objective of reaching the widest possible audience. Not necessarily to rejuvenate the audience but to broaden it. And we are very happy with the result."
The eight participating teams – who received a little money in the process – played the game, without any right to control the final result. Including before the race to allow Netflix cameras to follow the athletes in their preparation or in their private lives.
In particular, Geraint Thomas can be seen wondering about his post-career with his wife while looking at his son in a kindergarten. And Thibaut Pinot feed his goats with his companion on his farm in Mélisey, Haute-Saône.
"They really put in huge resources. They came to see me for an internship in Tenerife, in the south of France, on the Dauphiné and at my home in Brittany. All this even before the Tour," David Gaudu told AFP, to whom the series devotes an episode to tell his fight for the podium.
French Groupama-FDJ rider David Gaudu at the finish of the 18th stage of the Tour de France 2022, on July 21, 2022 in Hautacam © Marco BERTORELLO / AFP/Archives
Individual destinies are intertwined with the collective work. We board the sports directors' cars and buses to attend pre-race briefings. We sit at the corner of the massage table to listen to the confidences of runners broken by a day in the mountains. We follow Jonas Vingegaard and Jumbo-Visma as they panic on the cobbled stage before cracking Tadej Pogacar in the Grenon odyssey. We discover Tom Pidcock's supersonic descents and acrobatic pee breaks.
The images are mixed with excerpts from the race and accompanied by comments from Alexandre Pasteur, the voice of the Tour on France Télévisions.
The result is spectacular, with a downside, in addition to the possible weariness of viewers - after F1, Netflix has already declined the concept in several sports: the absence of Pogacar's UAE team, which did not want to participate. And this should not change for season 2, already in preparation.
© 2023 AFP