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Live Blogging UNCHAINED, the Neflix Tour de France Show


I don’t know when it was that I first became aware of the Netflix documentary, Tour de France: Unchained, was in process, but I for sure remember feeling excited about it. The history of cycling documentaries is a mix of lovable old classics, depressing doping stuff, and head-scratchers. If the pinnacle of the sport’s filmography is “inside Movistar,” then surely there was an opportunity for more. And this time around, unlike the Movistar moment that IIRC involved some teams bailing on the project, the top teams were going to participate and really let us behind the scenes of a recent, relevant, Tour de France. What could go wrong?

[Plenty, but if you want a list of nitpicky complaints, Twitter is your best bet.]

Anyway, I am not here to analyze the series in any serious way — it’s a documentary, watch it and enjoy as you see fit. The only bit of content I can think to add is to just give you my running thoughts and impressions... TO THE LIVEBLOG MOBILE!

[Actual impressions based on late evening notes; timestamps are vague approximations for dramatic purposes only.]

EPISODE 1: The Grand Départ

[2 minutes]

Just watched the intro and am completely spent. If anyone is wondering why the Tour has to play out over three weeks’ worth of five-hour segments, the answer is, for our collective health and sanity.


Steve Chainel!! I saw something on Twitter about how he’s a prominent commentator in French cycling media, but am still a bit taken aback. Kind of prominent ears, probably cost him 3-4 watts per km. But whatever, he’s the star of my only (truly unqualified) appearance in a Belgian cycling photographers’ well.

Chainel FTW

Really nailed the shot of the 25-meter mark.

[3:30] Patrick Lefevre could be an American sports mini-hero by the end of episode 8. That sort of straight-talking, salty-sounding old guy wisdom is GOLD.

[3:45] Charismatic world champion Julian Alaphilippe will be a character of this documentary!!

[4:30] At home with Fabio Jakobsen, where he is cleaning his own bike. Clearly he is going to feature prominently. Equally clearly, the show is going to feature lots and lots of crashes, in painfully slow motion. Note to self: keep the controller handy.

[5:00] Super Bowl-style rider intros. Ladieeeezzz and Gentlemennnn... Floriaaaaannn Sénéchal...chal...chal [wild applause]

[5:22] Charismatic world champion Julian Alaphilippe has been effectively fired from this documentary. Lefevre explains it in his truly endearing “go fuck yourself” way. In case you were wondering, his job as team manager is to manage the team, he would like to remind you.

1st Tour de France Femmes 2022 - Stage 8 Photo by Dario Belingheri/Getty Images

[6:00] EF’s cartoon kit special, the unkillable fashion disaster, takes the stage now. JV addressing his cartoonishly-attired charges, just full on catastrophizing everything that has happened in EF’s season to this point, and then talking to the camera, baring his soul to us. Are we his therapist? It feels like we are. He does talk about how back in the day the now-EF franchise made antidoping cool. All of the gravity of this is undercut by the cartoon characters on the jersey.

[6:30] OMG the race! I’d forgotten...

Orla! Orla! Orla! There are a lot of different voices in this show already, and until now all of them are male. This is progress!

[7:45] could Netflix not afford to include Mathieu van der Poel? He ended up having a dull Tour, and maybe they could foresee that coming straight off the Giro. But just passing by him like MATHIEU van DER POEL isn’t just standing right there is gonna drive me crazy.

[9:00] Kinda setting up expectations for Bissegger. Luckily I forget everything that happened more than 24 hours ago.

[10:30] Wow this is maddening. Bissegger just completely went for it on a day that screams “maybe don’t just go for it.” Rain sucks. Also Vaughters’ pink sportcoat — bringing the Kentucky Derby to the Tour de France?

109th Tour de France 2022 - Stage 1 Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

[13:00] Stacey, my wife who sometimes tolerates watches cycling with me, is already a big Yves Lampaert fan, after he pulls on the maillot jaune unexpectedly and becomes emotional about it. Hopefully someone else will cry during this series. That’s the content she’s here for.

[15:00] Where exactly is Steve Chainel? It looks like the weird prison/dungeon from Silence of the Lambs. Speaking of unfathomable gore, now Jakobsen is describing his Pologne crash injuries. He actually cuts himself off acknowledging (correctly) that the listeners will have heard enough.

[15:52] OK, Wout Van Aert is the next great American media star.

[16;28] Worth mentioning that on board cameras are pretty amazing. Not news to most fans, but now that I’m watching on a giant screen, the impact cannot be overstated.

[17:30] Steve Chainel, cycling explainer. This is the drudge work of every cycling film aimed (eventually) at American audiences. This rider has to help the other rider, today’s stage is not everything, blah blah blah. The dungeon kinda feels right, actually.

[18:08] It’s amazing how completely uninformative team radio chatter often is. Would love for some riders to back me up here. Like if I had an earbud in so someone could tell me I’m typing fine, my internet connection is still functioning normally, I have a call coming up in six minutes... I would not have an earbud in.


[19:00] Stage 2, the Danish Bridge Race. I don’t know if the dramatic editing is exaggerating things or if I just totally underappreciated how nuts this was. Like, they got squeezed through a toll bypass? Also they are clearly setting us up for a big crash.

[19:30] And there it is. Since it’s a Quick Step segment (and so far it’s been like 80% Wolfpack), this is a good chance for the American audience to learn some Flemish swears.

Speaking of which, what percentage of Netflix subscribers are hearing Belgians speak for the first time in their lives? Not many, because Jean-Claude Van Damme exists. But for the second time? Anyway, the tension in the team car as they wait to find out who crashed is as unbearable as you’d think.

[21:00] Coming toward the line... FUUUUCK the bumping around...

[22:45] Jakobsen wins. Wish we got the Dutch edit where the Jumbos just say fuck over and over.

“That’s how we howl.” Damn. I’m in.

[24:15] Now Orla is in the Explainer Dungeon.

...and abruptly we are done, with a plug for the next episode centered around the Paris-Roubaix secteurs. Will they say the word “hell” a lot?



[1:00] Ugh the crashes are so insane. Also, this is going to be a Madiot show, isn’t it? Is he good content? The screaming team car stuff, sure, but that’s a bit outdated.

[2:40] Primož Roglič is kind of funny. He’s exasperated after like two sentences of direction about how he’s supposed to introduce himself. Looks like we are pivoting to Jumbo-Visma.

Now setting up the Tadej Pogačar story, which is obviously the 48-point headline to this entire Tour de France. The Doc has been pretty understated about Pogs so far, all things considered. Jonas Vingegaard calls his success annoying.

[4:00] Aaaand we are back to the Explainer Dungeon for a look at domestiques.

[5:30] David Millar, the British ex-star, is the 17th different analyst to make an appearance. And he seems to have fallen on hard times, if his thrift store eyewear is any indication.

[6:04] Wait... so we are just skipping over stage 3 and the whole Groenewegen story? After stage 1 took up most of the first episode, focusing heavily on Jakobsen’s crash and comeback from said, conspicuously not mentioning Dylan Groenewegen’s role? This is downright weird. Oh, and also Wout is now in yellow. For the people who (for example) needed an explanation of domestiques, this has to be disorienting.

109th Tour de France 2022 - Stage 4 Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

[7:55] Stage 4 gets interesting as Van Aert crests a hill, drops Vingegaard, and heads off to a stage win, which he finishes off with some sort of bird wing-flapping motion, the meaning of which I really wanted to hear about. Orla is now explaining the question my wife keeps asking, why did they say Van Aert was a helper if he’s just blasting off alone? [Answer: it’s Wout.]

[9:26] Fun watching the Bigs joking around. Pogs is less stressed than my cat stretched out in a sunny spot after her midday snack.

[10:07] In what counts for dramatic tension, the episode hones in on Wout’s team role after his stage win. He modestly refers to himself as “one of the best cyclists in Belgium,” a wildly understated claim. I am all in for this content, especially his marble dining table.

[11:25] Vingo just calling out Wout for not waiting! Proceed with caution, my dude. Don’t shit where you eat, is the saying, I believe. Now Wout gets a talking-to from Grischa Niermann. This is getting a little ridiculous. Gods don’t need to be coached on how to wield their powers.

[12:45] Cobbles time! I should be more excited but I guess I kinda remember the outcome. How many times will they say Hell? O/U 17.5

[14:01] Wout pretty much under team orders to not win. Did I mention that he’s the overall leader of the Tour de France, and his specialty is cobbled classics?

109th Tour de France 2022 - Stage 5 Photo by Bernard Papon - Pool/Getty Images

[14:17] Onto the actual cobbles now! Dust is insane. Things are going to go awry, though I forget just how much so.

[Insert mushroom cloud emoji]

Vingegaard down, bike no bueno. The whole scene where he gets on Nathan Van Hooydonck’s bike is so hilarious.

[17:21] Now Wout ditches him again. It’s total chaos!

[18:38] Pogs pulling the front group is so fucking cool. Also how hilarious is it hearing (Sky?) announcers talking about how Vingegaard might have to give up all hopes of winning the Tour?

109th Tour de France 2022 - Stage 7 Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

[20:01] Rogla crashes... and it’s Steve Chainel Explainer Dungeon Time again! Where is Wout? Everything is his fault now. Anyway, here’s how slipstreaming works. Meanwhile, Grischa Niermann is ready to gnaw the top off a glass bottle.

[21:00] Wout is a goddam locomotive. If you didn’t remember, he basically devours Pogačar’s gap to Jonas and the whole thing was a waste of the Slovenian’s energy, albeit great theater. Roglič is another story though, having separated his shoulder. If Jonas tweeted out the “I’m captain now” meme, nobody would have been shocked. Everyone on Jumbo needs a giant margarita.

[23:35] Pretty light on cobbles disasterizing and general hell-ness, right? Uh, spoke too soon. The post race faces... walking ghouls.

And just like that, we are abruptly off to the next episode! This series is meant to be binged I guess. Maybe I’ll stop in again over the weekend for the next couple ones.