Code Geel: I watch it, so you don’t have to (although you probably should)





7.1.2021



I wasn’t going to watch it. I said I couldn’t go through it all again. But I couldn’t help myself. It was made, our boys gave everything, so it deserves at least one viewing. (Note: it was two, as I went over it again with subtitles. Well, all except the last bit. Not doing that three times).



Can’t face it yourself? Fear not, I’ve done it on your behalf. Marvel as I descend into the jaws of hell once again and capture my minute-by-minute reaction to an hour and twelve minutes of my life that I never wanted to relive in the first place.


(Note: factual information is lacking. That is reserved for the likes of https://lacourseentete.com/code-yellow-the-dutch-documentary-following-jumbo-vismas-ill-fated-2020-tour-de-france-reveals-more-about-the-state-of-the-sport-than-perhaps-its-subjects-intended/. Complete bias, emotional fawning and humour as a defence mechanism are more my bag – if you are up for some of that, climb aboard).


0:00:00-0:01:50 And we’re straight in there. Smacking me right in the feels, the contrast between the hubris and hope and the rapidly unfolding realisation on the face of Merijn Zeeman as he sits at the roadside is genius film-making but I’m already biting my knuckles. This is going to be a hard watch.


0:02:00 OK, I’ve calmed down now. Let’s do this.


0:05:30 The comment about ‘self-confident but don’t be arrogant’ was well-chosen. The team will walk the fine line between those two states the entire Tour.


Not knowing Dutch is going to be a major handicap here, I’m missing nuance. I get the impression Tom Dumoulin is saying important stuff. I need to learn Dutch faster. I’ll download an app.


EDIT: between app and subtitles I get the gist – Astana poorly judged their speed at the front of the peloton in the wet conditions of stage 1. Jumbo-Visma redressed the balance. Onward.


0:08:00 The camaraderie among the team is so heart-warming. The moment between Wout and Primoz, Wout blaming himself for not being there on the climb, even though he was the one there to help Tom back onto his bike, and sacrificing his own chances in the process. What a team-mate.


EDIT: I’m now using a voice translation app to try and catch some of Tom’s comments. It’s not perfect but it helps. (Summary – the crash was not what was needed. Bad times.)


0:12:12 OK so I’m on my second viewing now with the subtitles partially working. Tom’s leadership is spot on – he talks about controlling the race when they don’t need to, the importance of staying humble, and painful as it is to admit it, he’s spot on. The team are falling a little into the gap in the market left by Ineos not being at the top of their game.


0:12.25-0:13.30 These guys are the best though aren’t they? They are honest and supportive in spite of everything. Honestly, my heart.


0:15:26 Stage 4. ‘Van Aert blijft verbluffen’ – I enjoyed this phrase immensely the first time around, it’s got a lovely ring to it. Now I know it means ‘Van Aert continues to amaze’, I like it even more.


0:16:36 It’s all going reasonably well, isn’t it? Primoz wins the stage and I remember the good times. My heart grows a little fonder and I’m lulled into a false sense of security. Maybe I’ve entered an alternate universe where somehow it all ends differently?


0:19:38 I mean, the English subtitles aren’t foolproof. When I find out that Tom wasn’t feeling too good yesterday but then ‘Sailor, the Big Boss loved him very much’ it doesn’t seem quite appropriate. Especially given the saddle sores. No, you’re blushing. And which one’s ‘Sailor’? Then the cryptic ‘the truth will be the middle lie’. I think I’m better off sticking to the Dutch to be honest.


FANGIRL ALERT FANGIRL ALERT. It’s time for me to talk about Wout van Aert.


He’s just an all-round good guy, isn’t he? Works tirelessly for his team, is thoughtful and well spoken, and then there’s the small matter of his prodigious talent. The two stage wins in three days are such a confidence boost for the team. And his bromance with Tom, you’ve got to love it.


0:23:44 Subtitles on the commentary, speaking about Pogacar. ‘Look, there’s a hole!’ Ah, it’s the little things that amuse me.


0:23:53 But then we find out that the baby Slovenian comes in 1:20 behind. 1:20. Classic foreshadowing. Heart breaks a little bit.


‘dit is niet goed’ = I’m learning. And no, it is NOT good.


0:31:00 Poor Tom. I was so busy worrying about seeing sad Primoz I hadn’t anticipated getting choked up over Tom and his pain. The poor guy. Just wanted to give him a proper cuddle.


0:33:50 Tom admits he acted on impulse because of emotion and his honesty is so refreshing.


0:36:00 Er, so Rogla gets the yellow jersey and in the next scene, the sad music starts. I had hoped we’d get further in before this. But then I see. The stages pass by – 11, 12. We don’t even see the Wout/Sagan spat – that’s not part of the narrative here.


0:39:00-0:40:00 The subtitles dry up, for some unknown reason. Jazzy music. Nervous thumb twiddling.


0:40:30 Primoz tells Pogacar about the Colombier: ‘the first five kilometers are tough. You have to persevere. After that it gets easier.’ There’s some throwaway comments about his relative youth. ALARM BELLS.


0:42:25 Using my Dutch translation app (not naming any names but wow, it’s hopeless) and it seems to suggest that Rogla has blood on his hands as they ascend the Colombier. This seems a tad over-dramatic.


0:43:00 Lo and behold, Pogacar paces himself well up the Colombier according to Primoz’ advice and takes the stage. You don’t need to speak Dutch to know that some choice words are aimed at the young Slovenian in the team car. It’s a bad omen for sure, especially given the dominance the team showed all the way up the climb.


0:44:00 Well, check out my translation app doing the good thing – I’m busy watching Tom’s bruised arse thinking ‘he’s looking awfully relaxed for someone with excruciating saddle sore’ and I’m provided with the following translation: ‘It’s completely gone. I have well lubricated and the saddle that I now ride yes say the much better. Today I have again for the first time in my underpants…’ – and then it stopped. I will forever be wondering what Tom Dumoulin did for the first time in his underpants on the Colombier...! (Second update: wore them. He wore them).


0:46:00 Super Sepp plays a blinder to distance Pogacar on the final climb of stage 17 and I’m still on a high from the dramatic subplot of Tom’s tears through to Tom laughing and talking about his underpants, and I’m almost forgetting that the outcome of this story is already decided and for a moment, it’s sweet.


0:46:57 Subtitles – they’re going to ‘throw that Slovenian hornet overboard’. I mean, it’s harsh but I’m with them.


0:47:00 Primoz distances Pogacar on the Col de la Loze to stretch his lead as Superman Lopez takes the win. Pogacar has given it everything and the confidence the team and especially Primoz feels in breaking him down is palpable.


The win’s close enough to touch and the euphoria is real, as Primoz takes to the hotel balcony with a spring in his step and raises his arms to the mountains. There’s soaring music and flag waving. Oh god. This is going to suck so hard. Also, how is there still like, 25 minutes of the film left? SIGH. On we go…


0:52:30 Merijn’s giving a speech. It sounds calming and inspirational. My translation app gets the following from it, and no more: ‘only now tinker bicycles’.


STOP PRESSa Slovenian fella called Primoz (nope, don’t think it’s the same one) has provided me with a subtitled version of the film. To say I’m relieved is an understatement, although I feel somewhat disappointed that the amazing translation app isn’t going to be able to continue its sterling work telling me all about tinkering with bicycles and Tom Dumoulin’s pants.


0:53:10 Turns out, the subtitles aren’t actually that useful. Although I did find out that ‘only now tinker bicycles’ wasn’t good – it’s the reason behind Merijn losing his temper and getting kicked out of the team cars. Hence him sitting by the road…


Uh-oh, there is tense violin music playing over this bit. I feel sick.


0:53:44 There’s a problem with Primoz’ suit. Oh no, it’s happening. I’m not ready. Are you ready? I’m not.


The next bit throws me off a bit. There’s some jaunty jazz and the costumiers trim and sew and measure and it feels as though they’re trying to emulate some kind of Parisienne fashion parade. It’s weird. I don’t like it.


0:55:50 From that point on we’re into the practice run for stage 20 and it’s feeling sketchy. There’s a misunderstanding over the visor; Primoz doesn’t feel as though his helmet is aerodynamic and doesn’t feel as good on the TT bike and I’m itchy.


0:57.00 Heart thumping. Mouth dry. Hands shaking. And that’s just seeing Primoz drag himself into that bloody skinsuit.


Seriously though. I feel sick. Do I have to do this?


0:58:20 He’s off. BREATHE WOMAN, BREATHE.


0:58:46 Oh there’s Merijn again, cast out, sitting in his seat by the road, where we began an hour ago.


0:59:05 Is it me or is that cursed helmet already wonky?


0:59:25 As the TT runs its course, Tom takes the lead from Wout. It’s all yellow right now.


0:59:45 Does it make me a bad person that I wish that Pogacar’s bike change went wrong this time around?


1:00:00 One look at Sepp and George’s faces is enough to tell you how much this means to whole team. They are enjoying this about as much as I am reliving it.


1:00:34 Oh god it’s the bike change coming up, the bike change. I’m channelling happy thoughts, good thoughts, thoughts about the smooth as silk bike change in the Vuelta TT. Mmm, so smooth.


1:01:45 My hands are sweating. The music isn’t helping, I think complete silence would have been more fitting. 1.01.45 Merijn packs his bags and we’ve come full circle. 12 minutes of pain to endure.


1:02:00 The whole team are crowded round an iPad on a camping chair, they look like they’re on a really crap cycling holiday.


1:02:50 Somebody pass me a violin; any one will do. I will literally smash it to pieces. NO MORE DRAMATIC VIOLINS PLEASE I CAN’T TAKE IT.


1:04:50 And it’s over.


To confirm: that final, agonising two minutes is 100 times worse the second time around (not counting all the replays – they didn’t have an hour-long emotional gut punch of a build-up).


1:05:30 I am George Bennett’s dumbfounded disbelief.


Everything after that is empty. The awkwardness, the tension. Tom Dumoulin says a lot of things which my translation app struggles with, but perhaps the gist of it is how hard he’s worked only for this be the outcome. More disbelief.


Primoz questions the power needed to produce that kind of turnover of time. More disbelief. It appears to be a universal language. We’ll leave the notion of whether its disbelief over Primoz’ loss of Pogacar’s win for another day. The nuance is subtle, but it’s there.


1:10:45 I think I’d much rather watch the bikes being pressure washed that watch any of this press conference. Got lucky there, then.


1:11:30 My heart cracks when Primoz says he’s ashamed. Suddenly I realise the moment I’m dreading far more than having to sit through his loss over the line again. It’s him facing the rest of the team. The only benefit? There’s only a minute left of the film. If Primoz had to walk in there feeling that way, I can sit through 60 seconds of it.


… The last shot is of the lift doors closing on Primoz and I don’t know how to feel. I would have sobbed, undoubtedly, but maybe a shot of Primoz being hugged by the other guys would have provided some kind of catharsis. It’s a private moment though and I respect the decision to keep it from us.


Overall, I loved the Vuelta documentary series, and the contrasting vibe between that and Code Geel is stark. At the Tour, until that last stage, the boys are all so relaxed, confident, focused. At the Vuelta, not so much. There’s immense pressure and second guessing, unsurprisingly – but the difference only reveals itself when you see the way they were, before it all went south. The reason I spent the entire Vuelta series biting my knuckles, despite knowing the outcome was positive, turns out to be the tension, amplified during that tour because it was Primoz’ redemption; it was the whole team’s last chance to take a grand tour title away from a bizarre season of bike racing.


REVIEW: an exceptionally well-made film which celebrated the amazing spirit of this awesome team. Needed more underpants, even more hilarious subtitles, and a lot less violins. Will not be watching again.







This we saw a lot during the Tour the France... the Yellow-Black train on front of the peloton, like Ineos in there prime