I don’t know if this is an official Tour de France cliché or not but if it isn’t it should be. Also, I don’t know how you find out if something is or is not an official TDF cliché. Are TDF clichés a product of consensus, does the ASO have a part in the decision process, are all the clichés written down and recorded somewhere like in a book or “living bible,” is there a wiki page and if there isn’t a wiki page who do you ask? Soigneur asked us to compile our four favorites so that’s what we’re doing. But to be clear we’re just kinda winging it. I mean some, like Free Hats and Sunflowers, are obvious, while others like this one, Nearly Naked Dudes—a lite-to-medium sized phenomenon which we suspect has been “a thing” since the TDF’s inception—are a bit more conceptual.
Before we crack into the subject of NNDs, can we talk about a different even more popular cliché that has nothing to do with cycling? The tired-ass cliché in question goes like this: “What do you want to be when you grow up? Until our coverage of the 2018 TDF, A) I’m not sure how I would have answered that question and B) I think whatever my answer(s) may have been—TV Host, DJ, professional skateboarder, etc.—my responses likely would have varied quite a bit over the years depending on where I was in my life and what I was up to. That’s because until now I didn’t really know. I only thought, at times, that I knew. And but now, after the last week of covering the TDF, I know F O R R E A L. How do I know I know for real this time? Listen, you just know. And I know I want to be French when I grow up.
“I want to be an old shirtless French guy on a bike. I will be golden tan, I will have a shaved and/or simply hairless chest, I will wear baggy lycra shorts and no helmet and I will ride to the top of all the climbs during the TDF where I will picnic in the sun sans sunscreen and listen to my transistor radio.”
Not all NNDs are this Old French Dude, but OFDs my favorite specimen/subspecies of the NND cliché taxonomy for sure because OFDs are life-affirming. Yeah okay sure, OFDs may have actual tits and a pot belly but who cares, they are clearly aging gracefully and wonderfully and stylishly. Listen, I’ll trade you five or six Borats and handful of Lads for one OFD in rolled-up running shorts with a cell phone stuffed into his waistline any day of the week. No questions asked.
Okay enough about OFDs specifically, let’s return to the subject of why NNDs are a TDF cliché, even if an obscure TDF cliché. Dude, they just are. Have you seen any of our race reports? They’re everywhere and at every stage, without fail. The Alps, check. The Pyrenees, check. The beach, check. In sunflower patches, check. Wearing stacks of Free Hats, check. At the starts, check. At the finishes, check. Nearly Naked Dudes are all over the Tour de France. I mean, to be honest, Nearly Naked Dudes are all over France. Potato, tomato. Point is, they’re in, they make the list of TDF clichés, again, if such a list exists—beyond, of course, this body of work Soigneur commissioned us to undertake.