As the 2017 racing season draws to a close, we also bid farewell to Backstage Pass, Orica-Scott’s prolific behind-the-scenes YouTube series, after six years.
Video content is the blandest way of describing it. Their cameras showed heated team car moments, crashing riders, hotel room hilarity, recreating a Giro stage with toys and an entire WorldTour team lip-syncing to execrable pop songs. There’s nothing quite like it in the world of professional cycling.
Who knew lead directeur sportif Matt White had such a girlish scream? They even captured Eddy Merckx playing one of their plastic guitars at the 2013 Tour, looking happier than he ever did while racing a bike.
Backstage Pass was the mission of one man with a plan, a camera and the stamina for hours of editing footage: Dan Jones. The genial Aussie was originally hired by team owner Gerry Ryan to follow the team for a documentary on its first year. “The blueprint was, we’re in the entertainment industry, category sport, section cycling so just try to go out and entertain people,” Jones told me at this year’s Tour de France.
Read: How a timely phone call brought Esteban Chaves back from the brink
“We won the Tour Down Under and nationals with Gerro [Simon Gerrans]. But I felt like I wasn’t actually working hard enough. We had all these wins and I was doing all these stock, standard interviews. I came from a documentary background, I should actually try and do that at races.
With his quirky mix of films, “Jonesy” quickly became a cult figure. His videos have shown a different side to everyone from team owner Gerry Ryan to directeur sportif Matt White, the radiant Esteban Chaves and the Yates brothers, although Jones steered away from any controversial topics.
While Backstage Pass was a compelling companion to the team’s big victories – Mat Hayman’s fairytale 2016 Paris-Roubaix win has had over half a million YouTube hits – it’s often just as enjoyable going off on silly tangents away from the racing.
Read: In his own words – Mat Hayman’s fairytale Roubaix win
Television programmes can feel over-produced, whereas this series had an endearing rawness (and a lot more swear words). Deep down, it typifies the Australian trait of relaxing and having a laugh – something they even managed after getting their team bus stuck under the finish line gantry at the 2013 Tour.
It focused on fun, without going into the sport’s minutiae. “Whenever I do stuff, I always try and think of my mum or my sister, who don’t really know too much about cycling. If they can follow the video, then we’re on the right track,” Jones says. “You never see us talking about gear ratios or anything like that just because I don’t give a shit, that stuff sort of bores me.”
“I’ll be honest: if I was a cyclist and they told me the concept, I’d be against it. I’d be like ‘no, I don’t want this guy on the bus all the time, filming,’” Jones says. “But I thought I’m gonna have to win their trust. Once I’d done that, they could understand why we were doing what we were doing.”
Read: Orica-Scott rider Chris Juul-Jensen on the mind-bending nature of time in stage races
Other WorldTour teams have tried and failed to replicate the same formula. The most inimitable quality is the chemistry Jones has with the rest of the team.
Over 535 episodes, you can see the evolution of the team and their riders’ highs and lows. Backstage Pass has generated incredible goodwill for Orica-Scott, alongside giving a peerless insight into the workings of a professional cycling team and its characters.
“If the fans can feel like they know our riders, off the bike predominantly, then we’ve done our job,” Jones told me. Mission accomplished, and a lot more besides.
Pick of the pass: five Backstage belters
Impressive team participation on a video that’s had over a million views. A case of ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ about some of the dance moves though
A fairytale win for Hayman provided the team with a 20-minute edition that has over 500,000 views
Matt White is reduced to tears as Michael Matthews grabs his first Tour stage win from the breakaway:
A sublime insight into the team tactics behind Esteban Chaves’s bold attack to secure third place overall:
“You f***ing muppet!” Matt White turns the air blue at a VIP driver who nearly wrecked Svein Tuft’s time-trial at the 2012 Three Days of De Panne:
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