I sat through the Tour de France presentation so you don’t have to
It was a way to pass the time.
It was a way to pass the time.
I get it. The Tour de France is about to begin, and that means your attention is about to be pulled in a dozen different directions at all times. There will be articles to read, podcasts to listen to, photos to look at, live coverage to watch. So I’ve taken one for the team here. I spent two hours of my life that I won’t get back watching the Tour de France teams presentation, from start to end. Which started out fun, but didn’t finish there.
Now, it didn’t have to be this way. Grand Tour team presentations can be satisfyingly bonkers, as we learnt at the Giro d’Italia this year. But the Tour de France is a more polished affair, so – again – I get it. I get the desire to appeal to the broadest possible audience by being as generic as possible. But I don’t have to be happy about it.
This year, the curtain opens in Copenhagen – you know the vibe, bikes and Danes everywhere. Our hosts are Stine Bjerre Mortensen (a Danish sports journalist who specialises in handball) and Dennis Ritter (another Danish sports journalist, covering cycling, martial arts, handball and football while also being extremely tall). Stine is wearing a lovely lilac dress. Dennis is dapper in a forest green three-piece suit. Both of them seem like the kind of people you’d want to listen to talking about handball while you sink a six pack of Carlsbergs on a lazy Sunday afternoon. So far so good.
Our stage is Tivoli Gardens, the third oldest amusement park in the world. It was burnt down by Nazis in 1943 but it looks very nice now. From personal experience – although sadly not this year – I can report that it is close to the central railway station and a short but wobbly walk from a brewery that does excellent US barbecue.
There’s very little mucking around at the outset, and Trek-Segafredo – “an American team with a Danish twist” – is first up. Mads Pedersen leads them onto the stage. They have a new kit for the Tour which I don’t rate, but Toms Skujiņš has a daring new haircut and Mads always looks so kind and the crowd wants him to win the first yellow jersey of the race. Buoyed by their energy, I do too.
We cut to a video package with shots of Danish street life, mostly bike-themed. There are lots of cargo bikes, lots of handsome people on vintage bikes, and a woman in labour on her way to hospital in a cargo trike. The camera also lingers on a bikeless wheel chained to a railing, which is surprisingly honest.
In that moment, life and death and tragedy and hope for a better future collide and just when you’re about to feel something, it’s time for B&B Hotels – KTM to roll in and the moment is gone. Ritter tells Franck Bonnamour, with a curious melancholy, that “they love you”.
Some of the teams get an interview, and some of them don’t. Movistar is in the latter category, and Enric Mas looks fine with that. Cofidis is led on by Guillaume Martin, who is “hungry for more [ed. blood, souls, darkness]” and has had a haircut since the Giro.
Alpecin-Fenix is now Alpecin-Deceuninck and they’re up next. Mathieu van der Poel gives a tasteful interview, albeit a bit dull, but all I care about is that Guillaume Van Keirsbulck is there. Last time I checked in on him, he gave a sweary interview about his dog that had just died and his new Pomeranian, Mr Stilly, who was revealed very shortly after to actually be Miss Stilly, which must have been a fascinating time in the Van Keirsbulck household.
That’s a hard act to follow, but BikeExchange-Jayco manages to up the stakes – because although they are Australian, so is Denmark’s Crown Princess Mary.
Michael Matthews tries unsuccessfully to hand the mic off to friendly-faced local Chris Juul Jensen. He then stitches Chris up by saying that he “never told me Denmark was this beautiful with this many people”, which I agree doesn’t sound like something that would come up organically in a conversation with a teammate. The crowd absolutely loses its shit anyway, and Host Dennis correctly observes that nobody is listening to anything they say.
EF Education-EasyPost are wearing crocs and a new outfit and Magnus Cort Nielsen is the blondest man in cycling, so that’s quite an entrance, but my enthusiasm for the task has begun to fade by this point. Luckily, we’re close to the first interlude – we just need to get through an enigmatic Peter Sagan interview, Bora-Hansgrohe’s new kit, and Marco Haller’s handlebar mo.
Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme and the lord mayor of Copenhagen, Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, are tasked with righting this sinking ship. Andersen is a bike enthusiast and says “why have one bike when you can have three?”, which is a shrewd statement to make to an audience of people that spend much of their lives justifying bike purchases. Host Stine is fishing for a compliment about how good the team presentation is, and Christian Prudhomme says that his #1 thing about Denmark is ‘hygge’. The crowd can’t believe their luck.
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux doesn’t have any Danes to keep the buzz going, but they do have an Alexander Kristoff. The Stallion says that he wants to conduct the interview in Norwegian for the LOLs, before proceeding with a generic interview in English. One of his teammates throws his hat into the crowd (his own, not Alexander Kristoff’s. Alexander Kristoff would not be on board with such juvenile hijinks).
DSM injects some welcome chaos into proceedings by lining up in the wrong order, which leads to some frantic gesticulation from John Degenkolb. Very Nice Frenchman Romain Bardet can’t hear one of Dennis’s questions but ad libs about how mythical Alpe d’Huez is, which is classy as hell.
Astana-Qazaqstan and Arkéa Samsic are next up, neatly coinciding with the point when I am fading the fastest. The hosts are getting nervous about how long it’s all dragging on for – and fair enough, it has been about a week by this point – and start cutting off interviewees after one question.
Bahrain Victorious doesn’t even get that – Stine bluntly tells the riders to “please enjoy the Tour de France because unfortunately you can’t enjoy more time on stage.” It’s brutal. I love it.
If you watch this on Eurosport – which, to be clear, I do not recommend you do – you then get three minutes of flaccid pop from a band (not a bloke) called Lukas Graham. The band’s lead singer is also called Lukas, and was born in the anarchist community of Christiania. There is precisely 0% of that childhood edginess apparent.
The ASO feed just has three minutes of this message, which is about as interesting:
We soldier on.
From here, the highlights are fewer and further in between, but include:
-Ben O’Connor (AG2R Citroën) being an absolute charmer, even though Host Dennis gets a bit pissed off about him talking over him
-Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal) making a funny joke about how they “have to help” the almost-40-year-old Philippe Gilbert “with all the technology”
-The aforementioned senile cyclist calling Caleb Ewan a “rocket pocket”.
Israel Premier Tech makes a big entrance with its new kit, which is bolstered by the crowd’s excitement about A) Jakob Fuglsang and B) Chris Froome. Froome gratuitously plays to the home crowd, setting them off into a rapturous football chant that is so loud that Jakey Birdsong can’t hear the questions the hosts have for him.
QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl has dominated the headlines in the lead-up to the Grand Départ. The local hosts do very little to enhance the team’s internal harmony by playing a series of Mark Cavendish clips during Fabio Jakobsen’s interview.
The team also has tall local hero Kasper Asgreen on the roster, though, so nobody in the crowd seems too perturbed by that particular faux pas.
Ineos Grenadiers are next. Filippo Ganna is extremely Italian and makes hand gestures consistent with that fact. Standing next to him is Daniel Martínez who has an immaculately trimmed goatee that makes him look like a street magician.
My personal preference for a team presentation – for most things, really – would be for it to be as close to a Eurovision Song Contest half-time show as possible, but Danish TV’s producers are only prepared to go as far as a single outfit change for Dennis, who is now wearing a yellow suit.
It’s not enough. I start looking for thrills in the background – the Danes who have had too much fun, the Danes that haven’t had enough. A chance sighting of a neon sign for a burger restaurant called Gasoline Grill has me scouring Google reviews [average score 2.9 stars, typical sample: “Bit into cold burger and was very pink in middle.”]
As unappetising as a cold pink burger patty cooked over petrol may be, Jumbo-Visma tops it with a new jersey. Which is a shame, really, because they otherwise deliver a crowdpleasing performance. Steven Kruijswijk’s shoulders are satisfyingly enormous, Wout van Aert makes a little joke about winning all three stages in Denmark, and Jonas Vingegaard cries patriotic tears as the crowd roars his name.
There’s only one way to top that, which is UAE Team Emirates – which features not just Tadej Pogačar, but a Danish teammate in Mikkel Bjerg. Pogačar wants the host’s yellow suit for himself, and claims that Mikkel Bjerg has told him that in Denmark “they don’t have any climbs and they also like potatoes”. That sets the crowd off again – there’s a rowdy singalong to that riff from Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes – and then finally, mercifully, the teams presentation is at an end.
22 teams! So many bicycle cyclists! Laughs and tears! A truly depressing way to spend two hours of your Thursday afternoon!
Score: 2.9 stars, bit pink in the middle, not enough seasoning.