How do top cyclists experience the most renowned races in the world? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, these two all-access videos on Tom Dumoulin by Team Sunweb are a must-see.
After the 2018 Giro d’Italia, Team Sunweb put out an amazing behind the scenes video called Inside Out. After the recent Tour de France, the road cycling team repeated their trick. Both videos give a unique glimpse into Tom Dumoulin’s process and emotions.
Be sure to check out these two series for my take on showing what goes on behind the scenes in the world of sports: hurdles athlete Bianca Baak training to recover from an injury, and behind the scenes at PSV Eindhoven’s title celebrations.
The premise of both videos is quite simple: to document the final days of either course, as Dutch star Tom Dumoulin experienced them. Tom looked in excellent form in both courses, but both times just missed out against the financially superior Sky team.
What’s interesting is that the Team Sunweb media team really did have virtually all access. They could be present during intimate moments, such as when Tom is being massaged after a stage. The media team could also be present in the team bus during briefings just before a stage. It’s massively compelling to hear riders share their thoughts on events that we’ve all seen happen on television. Of course the key factor here is the media team being in-house. Team Sunweb could therefore rest assured that no sensitive information would leak during the course that could be valuable to opponents, and also had control over the image that would arise from the videos.
Talking of which: I do feel that the videos present an honest image of the team. We get to see some low moments, like when Tom complains about his opponent profiting from the slipstream of a motor during a descent. We’ll never really know whether any emotional or telling moments didn’t make it to the final cut, but to me these films show us the closest thing to the truth we’ll ever get to see as outsiders. It takes some courage for sports teams to be this open, and as I mention in the section on reception, the team was widely applauded for this.
One of the moments I really liked in the Tour de France film was when Tom got his rainbow jersey delivered. The jersey had somehow been lost, which was only discovered on the same day as the time trial, for which he’d be wearing it. His clothing supplier managed to produce a new jersey that same day in the north of Spain, and delivered it to him just in time. It was awesome seeing this moments added to the film, and to see Tom’s reaction to things all working out.
Both videos should not be seen as a traditional journalistic documentary. Although they show something real, they have been edited to present an emotional story and to carry a feeling. During both courses, Tom Dumoulin missed out on the overall victory although he looked really strong. I feel that in both videos, the editors have done an excellent job of coming to terms with not being victorious, and appreciating the memories and results anyway. In a way, I feel the films are stronger for Tom not winning, avoiding a traditional happy ending. Interestingly, these videos do not meet the internet’s demand for ever shorter videos. They clock in at 12 and 18 minutes, but don’t strike me as being even one minute too long.
In terms of visual style, the team opted for being a fly on the wall during most of shooting. There are no set up interviews or lit scenes, just the course as it happened. What I really value is that the media team sometimes managed to find pretty light and unconventional compositions. What’s more, in some cases there was no pretty light or a great composition to be found. However, if a strong moment was happening, the team accepted this and prioritised the moment over aesthetics.
Reception and results
The two videos combined have garnered wel over 120.000 views on Youtube and were widely shared on cycling media platforms. Team Sunweb also added some bumpers for their sponsors at the start and end of both videos, giving their financial backers some screentime. What’s more, throughout the video, sponsors get some very authentic product placement through some close-ups of riding gear and logos on jerseys. This strikes me as genuine and not annoying.
Beyond dry statistics though, some comments on Youtube show how viewers felt about the films:
Awesome how open Tom is about how he feels during the race, not hiding anything. If he felt tired he just said it straight. Awesome athlete.
Thanks for the super vulnerable behind the scenes! dumoulin you fought hard and put it all out there!
I feel that the main result these videos have accomplished is to create fans and generate sympathy for the team. Just like Netflix’ excellent documentary on Juventus’ first team did, you can’t help but feel empathy for the riders. This happens because you get to see both their highs and lows. We all get to see the riders perform in live broadcasts and answer cliche questions during interviews, but these videos offer us something more. Something real and convincing: it shows us these athletes at their most vulnerable moments and makes them human.
All stills in this article were pulled from the videos by Team Sunweb and used with permission.