'Spreading laughter on the roads of France': The Laughing Cow returns to the Tour de France

La Vache qui rit returns to the French Grand Tour as a sponsor, meaning the caravan might be a bit smellier this year

Laughing Cow
(Image credit: Getty Images/ASO)

Cheese feels about as French a thing as you get. Most of us could list half a dozen French examples off the top of our heads - Brie, Camembert, Reblochon, Comté, Roquefort, Gruyère to name but six. There is, however, one more French cheese you probably see every time you go to the supermarket, but don't realise quite how French it is.

The Laughing Cow, or La Vache qui rit en français, was a mainstay of the Tour de France's publicity caravan for over 75 years, from 1933 to 2009, as well as many lunchboxes in the UK as well as France. Now, the red chuckling cow is set to return to both the men's race and the Tour de France Femmes, thanks to a new three-year deal with the races' organiser, ASO.

Cycling and commercial partnerships are inextricably linked. The Tour de France is the ultimate example of this, the world's biggest race, founded to promote a newspaper, which sees human billboards move around the country, screened to millions around the world. 

Bike racing might seem like a niche sport to some, but to many of the biggest French brands, from Vittel to Orangina, via Orange and E.Leclerc, it is a guaranteed way of getting one's name out there. 

We are not to think of France as the country of Albert Camus, George Sand, Paul Cézanne or Simone de Beauvoir. Non. We are to think France as the place of Tourtel Twist, Cochonou, and now, The Laughing Cow.

In an excitable press release from ASO on Thursday, it was announced that La Vache qui rit would be in the pantheon of French goods, "spreading positive vibes", somehow.

"The three-year sponsorship agreement will put La Vache qui rit in the heart of the caravan in each stage held in France," the organisers said. "With one goal in mind: celebrating laughter in France!"

There is nothing more hilarious than a soft, inoffensive cheese, packaged in triangles, after all.

"The Tour de France and La Vache qui rit share timeless fundamental values such as a positive outlook and a community focus," according to the press release. "For over a century, they have both charmed generations of people in France with their storied heritage and unique amalgam of fervour, fun and flavour. They are also popular, charismatic brands that expanded beyond their borders to conquer the international scene."

Have they "conquered the international scene"? Ask a non-cycling friend what they think of the Tour and Laughing Cow cheese and let's find out, I suppose.

Apparently there will be "collaborative activities, sampling opportunities and, most importantly, a tidal wave of laughter and smiles for spectators and TV viewers". We are just hoping they are as clever as Orangina's mystery Laurent Gina signs.

Laughing cow

(Image credit: ASO)

Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France, was of course on board with the message of "laughter" coming from the collaboration, for some reason.

"Everyone knows the Tour de France and everyone knows La Vache qui rit [note: this cannot be true]," he said. "We are thrilled to see it return because it holds a special place in the hearts of people in France and exemplifies the values of the Tour. With La Vache qui rit, laughter and a popular celebration will fill the air in July."

Anne-Sophie Carrier, the general manager of Bel France, the dairy bigwigs behind LVQR, said: "This partnership with the Tour de France fills us with pride. It symbolises our dedication to spark joy and share moments through the iconic La Vache qui rit. 

"Our popular brand, close to everyone and endowed with a rich heritage, will play a role: celebrating laughter in France and bringing everyone in France on board for a fun sporty experience full of flavour."

It's always a delight to be reminded just how French the Tour de France is - that's one of the things that make it so special after all. Shame about the rampant consumerism, but hey, let's sit back, eat a cheese triangle, and laugh. Laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Isn't cheese funny?

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