Julian Alaphilippe with a pocket full of sunshine. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The banana is writing a beautiful story with the Tour de France

It's bendy. It's yellow. It's being thrown at spectators.

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Ah, bananas.

You know them. Maybe you even enjoy eating them. It is a fruit so evocative that it has spawned a chart topping band, the bridge of a Gwen Stefani song, and been the trusty pocket companion of many a cyclist. 

Now there’s another reason to talk about the leathery berry that is the banana: a French banana producer has signed up as the Tour de France’s Official Banana sponsor for the next three years. It is, according to a press release from Tour de France organiser Amaury Sport Organisation, the natural culmination of a longstanding friendship –  the banana “is writing a beautiful story with the Tour de France.”

“Beyond being an idealfruit [sic] for all athletes, including high level, the banana is very popular with the public,” notes Julien Goupil, ASO’s director of medias and partnerships. It is a revival of an existing partnership that for four previous years rained fruit on France.

“Everyday, the French banana is offered for tasting to spectators, riders and all the followers of the Tour de France,” the objectively funny press release continues. “A total of 15 tons, i.e. 75,000 bananas are offered during the 3 weeks of the event.”

Alberto Contador, a man that famously knows how to eat a banana – straight through the peel. An Euskaltel-Euskadi rider looks on, cheeks puffed with quiet admiration and Coca-Cola. (Photo: DESIREE MARTIN/AFP via Getty Images)

You may observe that bananas – famously tropical – are not a stereotypical French fruit, but you would be a little bit wrong, because you are forgetting about the legacy of French colonialism. The Caribbean islands comprising Guadeloupe and Martinique are an overseas department of the motherland – French speaking, Euro currency, the whole deal – with bananas supplying about 50% of Guadeloupe’s export earnings. 

Grown carefully on the plant, those bananas are delicately picked by the 550 producers of the banana conglomerate that has signed with ASO. They travel to port, are tenderly shipped 6,750 km across the Atlantic to France, at a carefully-controlled temperature of 13 °C (55 °F), and arrive in a distant warehouse where they are gently held at temperatures of 17 °C (63 °F) and treated with ethylene, the banana’s natural riping agent. They become yellow. They are fruit with a globetrotting story: rich with potassium, high in water, low in fat.

Then they are bundled onto the back of trucks and thrown by horny students at roadside spectators of the world’s biggest bike race

It is, truly, a beautiful story.

Editor’s Note: Caley Fretz here, in charge of editing and publishing this piece of journalism. I feel this story needs additional context, which I was frankly surprised Iain was unable to provide. He has covered the Tour de France – I know because I was there, driving him around and listening to his weird metal music – and so I assumed he had tasted the Tour de France banana, a banana of great historical relevance as well as a vital banana for the reporter who missed breakfast. These are not just any old bananas, ripe for the picking of small and inconsequential jokes. They are perfect bananas.

Allow me to indulge in Tour de France Bananas, A Review.

The packaging is questionable, I will admit. It’s a thin plastic, possibly recyclable but not obviously so. Each banana sits in its own pouch in a large stack on the back of a medium-sized cart pushed by the aforementioned horny students. They are wheeled around starts and finishes and, unlike the other food near the sign-on area, are available to non-riders. This is key.

This all may sound unremarkable, except I would invite you to consider your most recent memory of banana shopping. Before you lay rows of bananas. Some are green, and thus undamaged but also undelicious. Others are browning, too far gone. Those in the middle are rare, fleeting, ripe in this minute and not the next. By the time you get them home they’ll be bruised and brown.

The Tour de France banana defies this banana life cycle. It is plump and yellow in its little bag, piled onto the back of the cart. There are no bruises. There is no green. The travelogue of these bananas is detailed by Iain above but I must reiterate that they arrive as icons of banana perfection. I do not understand how.

The stem cracks off easily, allowing the first peel, which leaves no strings. Beneath lies plump, neat, celibate banana flesh. It is sweet, sweeter than the bananas I’m used to. The flavor is somehow richer, full of banana depth. There is no mealy texture.

Is it the bags? They are not vacuum sealed but maybe the decrease in oxygen prevents browning. Maybe it’s just that the American bananas I know have been so ruined by the banana industrial complex that an average banana becomes a sublime banana. I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m just happy this beautiful story can continue.

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