That’s not a knife, this is a (Tour de France) knife

If you like your blades French and officially licensed, take a stab at this.

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The Tour de France is the jewel in cycling’s crown, and it makes a lot of money for a lot of people – especially its organisers, Amaury Sports Organisation. That money comes from a range of places: TV deals, town hosting rights, advertisers who want to promote their sausages in the Tour’s promotional caravan.

A slice of that income also comes from licensing deals. The Tour de France has Official Water (Vittel; strangely soapy). It has Official Coffee (Senseo; very ashtray-y). It even has Official Bananas, shipped from Guadeloupe and distributed by the thousand.

Today, I learnt that there is an Official Knife of the Tour de France.

I’ll caveat this with an admission that I wasn’t expecting to make in my line of work, but here goes: I am not a knife enthusiast. I do not carry a switchblade. I do not whittle things. I do not have a rustic penchant for slicing apples in that knife-y way that you’re picturing in your head right now, and if I tried I would probably cut a thumb off.

But if I was inclined to get into knives, then the handsome form of an Opinel seems as good a place as any to start.

Screenshot: Opinel website.

Opinel, I have learned, has for over 130 years “been crafting knives and tools in the heart of the French Alps”, in Chambery, Savoie. The company is named after its founder, Joseph Opinel. For obvious reasons he is no longer with us, having died on January 29, 1960.

The company website says that “the 29th of January is cursed for the Opinel family,” which is a fair enough statement when you learn that on that fateful day in 1926 their factory burnt down, and in 1990, Joseph’s heir Marcel also sheathed his blade for the final time. But I digress.

This knife – the Tour de France knife – is a No.8 folding knife. The 2022 edition is the sixth such limited edition, with previous versions drawing inspiration from iconic scenes of the world’s most licensable bicycle race including the Lacets de Montvernier.

There are two special designs this year. One of them is a tribute to the yellow, green and polka dot jersey, with graphics sublimated onto the wooden handle. The other “tells the story of the Tour de France through the iconic landmarks and symbols that encapsulate the tour; the Arc de Triomphe and Mont Ventoux, paired with graphics symbolizing the elements of water, rain, and mist”. That is not a serving suggestion; you should not get the handle wet because it might warp.

All in all, they are, Opinel says, “a celebration of cycling and French culture … fun collectors items [that] make for a great daily carry for the cycling enthusiast in your life!”

This is the promotional image on the Opinel website. I like it because it features perhaps the least backstabby moment in recent cycling history.

Can you buy one? Certainly you can. The ‘Les Maillots’ one is US$55. The ‘Landmarks’ model is US$29.

Does that represent good value? I do not know. I am not into knives. But if I was, I’d probably buy the one with the yellow leather lanyard and make a real mess of a Granny Smith.

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