Racing the Tour de France by day, hounding airlines by night

Mike Teunissen's suitcase was left behind by a low-cost airline, and the Dutchman has had to pull some strings to get his bag back.

Jonny Long
by Jonny Long 02.07.2023 Photography by
Cor Vos & Mike Teunissen
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In the build-up and during the first week of the Tour de France, the one uniform thing you hear almost every rider talk about is how stressful it is. Over 170 of the best riders in the world, fresh and dialed to their maximum form in pursuit of glory on the biggest stage.

Imagine all of that and then on top place one the most stressful things regular human beings can experience: having an airline lose your luggage.

Well that’s what happened to Intermarché-Circus-Wanty’s Mike Teunissen, who has been tweeting and calling at both Vueling airline and Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport after his luggage didn’t arrive with him in Bilbao earlier this week.

“Exciting times with the Tour Grand Départ coming close,” Teunissen tweeted on Thursday, two days before stage 1. “Getting even more exciting when Schiphol and Vueling are deciding to keep my suitcase in Amsterdam already for 2 days. 3.5 weeks with only a backpack incoming.”

“Hi Mike,” came the human/maybe AI response from Vueling. “We apologize for the loss of the bag and completely understand the inconveniences that such circumstance can cause. In case bag is in Amsterdam, as you state, it will be sent on the next available flight.”

Such circumstances being about to start the Tour de France with only the clothes on your back.

Teunissen kept track of his bag’s whereabouts via an Apple AirTag, watching flights from Amsterdam to Bilbao come and go and his bag remain in departures.

“Now it’s just getting ridiculous,” Teunissen provided as an update with an image of his bag still in Amsterdam. “Especially the lack of responsibility, communication and perspective is striking me. Never felt more tired starting a Grand Tour.”

Despite this, the Dutch former wearer of the yellow jersey is still managing to enjoy himself. He comes bounding over before the start of stage 2 to tell his story.

“It didn’t arrive, I keep calling,” he began of trying to track down his luggage in between hectic stages of the Tour’s opening week. “But yeah, it’s like [a] typical airline company, you know, no answer.”

“It’s not ideal to start a Grand Tour,” he continued. “I mean, I have my shoes, I have my skin suit, but it’s literally all I have.”

So that means he’s currently switching between the clothes he had on his bike on the flight over and his one racing suit that he had in his backpack?

“It’s exactly like that, I wash it when I’m on the bike and then I can put them back on. For now it’s OK, but I can’t continue this for three weeks.

“It’s annoying because I’m a person who cannot be out of control [of something like this]. So I’m always mentally busy with it and there’s zero perspective and it’s costing me quite some energy. I should not get preoccupied with it so much but I am. So I hope it arrives and I can focus on the race.”

The face of a man with no luggage. Photo © Cor Vos

That need for control maybe explains why Teunissen is handling this himself rather than having someone from his team deal with the issue. Or maybe that’s a luxury only afford to team leaders Biniam Girmay and Louis Meintjes?

Fortunately, it looks like Teunissen’s luck may be about to change.

“It actually looks like it’s coming today,” he said.

“Because I was actually in contact already with some bosses of Schiphol and I got quite high up the hierarchy.”

Is that what being a former wearer of the yellow jersey does for a guy?

“I don’t think it has much to do with my yellow jersey,” he admits. “Just the fact that I’m such a nice guy and I know so many people!” he laughs. “Nah, I think if not [for being a rider in the Tour] I could have had to wait until Paris for my suitcase.”

It turns out that the 30-year-old is not only concerned for his own suitcase, as multiple Dutch Tour riders have also lost their luggage in transit.

“First I would like to see the suitcase,” he said. “And then the suitcases from my other guys because we were with four or five riders from Dutch teams here on that plane.”

Ramon Sinkeldam (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Nils Eekhoff (DSM-Firmenich), and Lars van den Berg (Groupama-FDJ) are three of those riders. Sinkeldam copied and pasted Teunissen’s tweet minutes after his compatriot posted it, trying to really pile on the pressure for the low-cost Spanish airline, Van den Berg has simply retweeted Teunissen’s messages, while Eekhoff has remained silent on the matter – maybe he had enough supplies in his carry-on that he’s not so perturbed by his misplaced suitcase.

A story to remind us that the riders of the Tour are human and, obviously, also find it infuriating when airlines lose your bag. But also the life hack that pushing massive watts can open the doors to get your bag back quicker than it would work for a regular joe.

Update: After speaking to Teunissen before the start of stage 2, it seems that while he was on the road his suitcase was recovered and delivered to him. We wonder how he’ll choose what to wear first.

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