‘Tour De France Unchained’ Review: Cycling Does ‘Drive To Survive’
— Updated on 15 June 2023

‘Tour De France Unchained’ Review: Cycling Does ‘Drive To Survive’

— Updated on 15 June 2023
Nick Kenyon
Nick Kenyon

Chances are, this won’t be the first review of Netflix’s Tour de France: Unchained that you’ve encountered online. But hopefully, it’ll be the last.

Netflix’s ability to make boring sports exciting is unmatched, and the latest competitive arena to receive its big-drama, high-tension magic touch is cycling. Specifically, the biggest bike race in the world.

Tour de France: Unchained follows the 2022 edition of the race – 3,350 kilometres across two countries in what was the fastest edition since it was established over a century ago. As you’d expect, the production value is through the roof, the stories are engaging, and the show doesn’t need to work hard to expose the countless competitive rifts between the 22 teams and 176 riders.

Image credit: Jered Gruber & Ashley Gruber – Gruber Images

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It’s a proper secret sauce that Netflix is cooking with at the moment, having worked its way through golf and tennis alongside Box To Box Films. Now, the often impenetrable sport of cycling is being shown in all of its slow and unfolding magnificence.

This tried and true formula relies on picking an individual sport that has moments of explosive action, which only serve as punctuation points after long periods of psychological warfare that can be skin-crawlingly uninteresting to the layperson.

How do you make these periods of psychological warfare interesting? You explain them, you give them context, and you offer insights into why Tour de France stage winners are often seen weeping as they give their post-race interviews. It’s a sport that embodies the height of human suffering and ecstasy. Even if it isn’t obvious straight away.

The main battle of the Tour de France 2022 occurs between Denmark talent Jonas Vingegaard (riding for Team Jumbo–Visma) and the two-time defending champion Tadej Pogačar (from UAE Team Emirates).

During his two victories in 2020 and 2021, Pogačar thoroughly beat Vingegaard and his teammate Primož Roglič on his way to the top step of the podium, setting up the 2022 edition as the possible three-peat win for the 23-year-old Slovenian.

Riding for the cycling equivalent of F1’s Mercedes, Pogačar goes up against the two-wheeled version of Red Bull Racing (Team Jumbo–Visma also happens to be a Dutch team), which is easily the strongest team in the race.

Not only does Team Jumbo–Visma have the previous two second-placegetters of the Tour de France on its roster, but also the powerhouse of Belgian Wout van Aert – arguably the most complete and dominant cyclist of the modern era.

Unfortunately, there are some gaps in the ability of the show to cover the entire race, which is to be expected from Tour de France: Unchained in its first season. Just as Drive To Survive doesn’t feature ongoing interviews with some of the main F1 drivers, Tour de France: Unchained would benefit from access to Pogačar and a number of the other larger teams and their managers.

The battle for the overall win of the Tour de France is a race of inches that plays out over nearly 80 hours in the saddle during a three-week campaign, which requires chess-like patience, strategy, and discipline. But just as the F1 World Championships competition is only a fraction of the overall action on the grid, so too is the peloton filled with weaker teams battling tooth and nail to simply survive.

Tour De France unchained netflix

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All cycling teams depend on sponsors for their existence, so for underperforming teams, winning a stage at the biggest bike race in the world presents a season-saving opportunity. This level of incentive proves to be more than enough motivation for all teams racing, which is artfully translated into a first season I simply couldn’t stop watching.

If you’re used to watching TV shows with subtitles on, keep them on for Tour de France: Unchained as many of the interviews with French team directors and media commentators are in their native tongue. The rest of the series is loud and clear in English, however, so don’t worry if reading isn’t your thing.

At the end of the day Tour de France: Unchained is another win for Netflix, and likely an even larger win for the sport of cycling. A three-week-long race that’s won and lost by such narrow margins can be a hard sell to those who don’t have hours to learn the intricacies of the peloton.

Because of the scope and scale of the Tour de France as an event, it’s impossible to cover every detail of the race as it happens. This makes Tour de France: Unchained an exciting entry into the world of cycling, but is unlikely to tell you anything you don’t know already if you’re a keen follower of the sport.

Netflix offers a great summary of cycling’s biggest event, serving up non-stop entertainment from start to finish.

Tour de France: Unchained is now streaming on Netflix.

Tour de France: Unchained

Rotten Tomatoes Score
Genre: Sports Documentary
Directed by: Jamie Batten

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Nick Kenyon
Nick Kenyon is the Editor of Boss Hunting, joining the team after working as the Deputy Editor of luxury watch magazine Time+Tide. He has a passion for watches, with other interests across style, sports and more. Get in touch at nick (at) luxity.com.au


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