Netflix Greenlights Documentary Series on Tour de France Bicycle Race

Netflix March 31 announced it is partnering with organizers of the Tour de France bicycle race for an eight-episode, reality-based documentary series on the 2022 edition of the famous sports spectacle. The series is expected to launch in 2023.

Following months of speculation, Netflix said it would work with France Télévisions and Quadbox, a joint venture between Quad and Box to Box Films (Producer of Netflix’s successful “F1 Drive to Survive” auto racing series), to follow eight teams taking part in the 2,000-mile race taking place from July 1 to 24.

The 45-minute episodes will follow as closely as possible all the actors of the Tour de France, from cyclists to team managers, to understand the multiple stakes of a race that has become a true international symbol, broadcasted in 190 territories.

The backstory of eight professional teams will be unveiled, from the preparation phase to the finish line. The teams include AG2R Citroën Team, Alpecin-Fenix, Bora-Hansgrohe, EF Education-EasyPost, Groupama-FDJ Cycling Team, Ineos Grenadiers, Team Jumbo-Visma and Team Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl.

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This is a unique opportunity to dive into the stories of its inspiring characters,” Dolores Emile, manager of EMEA Unscripted & Doc Series (France) at Netflix, said in a statement.

France Télévisions will broadcast a 52-minute documentary on the series a few days before the start of the Tour de France in 2023.

“Through a narrative approach, which is additive to the competition itself, the public will be able to discover how the Tour de France represents the ultimate challenge for the competitors,” said Yann Le Moënner, directeur général d’A.S.O. “This project is part of our overall ambition to make our sport more accessible and meet an even wider audience.”

Sky’s Cycling Dilemma

NEWS ANALYSIS — Chris Froome, racing for the $40 million Team Sky professional cycling team sponsored by the British satellite pay-TV operator, May 27 won his third straight Grand Tour stage race, finishing first overall in the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) that began in Jerusalem and ended three weeks later in Rome.

For Froome, who has won four Tour de France races, in addition to last year’s Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain), victory came May 25 after a jaw-dropping win into Bardonecchia that saw the South African-born rider erase a seemingly insurmountable three-minute, 21-second deficit in the overall standings to take the lead for good.

The win brought back bad memories of American Floyd Landis’ similar performance in 2006 when he overcame a significant time gap to vanquish his Tour de France rivals on the next-to-last stage.

Landis was eventually stripped of the win after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs — leading to a chain of events that would ultimately bring down his former teammate Lance Armstrong on similar charges.

Froome and Team Sky are supposed to be different than Armstrong’s heavy-handed squads of the early 2000s that pushed systematic doping to the extreme.

Founded in 2010, Team Sky has dominated professional and Olympic track cycling with a mandate of clean racing. It is a bragging right of sorts for corporate parent Sky, which eyes the team’s “inspiration and participation” as grounds for its massive marketing spend.

But it remains to be seen how much longer Sky — which has first-run distribution deals with major Hollywood studios, direct-access to Netflix and includes DVDs with electronic sellthrough purchases on the Sky Store platform — will support the team financially at it sits in the merger crosshairs of The Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox (which owns 39% of Sky), and Comcast.

And money is hardly the issue.

Team Sky’s dominance has produced increasing naysayers, who contend its results are due to exploiting loopholes within doping rules.

Indeed, Froome, a well-documented asthmatic, often uses inhalers during competition. But apparent misuse of inhalers contributed to Froome testing positive for illegally high levels of an asthma drug during last year’s Vuelta.

The case is under review by cycling’s governing body. Should Froome be found guilty, he would be suspended and stripped of the Vuelta win, and likely the Giro as well.

Without its marque rider, Sky would probably drop its sponsorship.

But in the meantime, Froome keeps racing. As does Team Sky, whose Columbian rider Bernal Gomez recently won the Tour of California.

“My conscience is clear,” said Froome in Rome.