Phil Liggett - "The Voice of Cycling" World-Renowned Cycling and Olympic Commentator
Episode 28: Phil Liggett - "The Voice of Cycling" World-Renowned Cycling and Olympic Commentator
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In this episode of BE with Champions, Greg Bennett chats with "The Voice of Cycling" the World-Renowned Cycling and Olympic Commentator Phil Liggett.
Together Greg and Phil discuss Phil's journey into journalism and commentary, and his process in preparing and enduring the grand tour events.
Phil and Paul Sherwan were commentary partners for 33 years and were like brothers. Paul passed away in December of 2018. It was the longest commentary duo in the world.
Phil's love of cycling was founded in his high school years. He developed quickly into a category 1 cyclist and signed a professional contract to race in Belgium. But right before he was to leave for Belgium he got a job offer to start a career as a cycling journalist.
Phil describes his first time doing live television commentary and how awful he was. But, with time he quickly got the hang of it. Phil describes the need for feeling nervous prior to doing live commentary... he describes it as much the same as an elite athlete preparing for a race... You need that nervous energy to perform at your best.
It occurred to Phil that with 150 million people watching the Tour de France that there are not that many cyclists in the world. Phil and Paul decided to spend more time speaking on things outside the race itself like the castles and vineyards, the birds, and the wines of the region. This proved to be a huge hit and increased viewership. The tour de France event organizers recognized this and saw the value it what they were doing. They started working to create more content for the commentators. The other grand tours copied the Tour De France. Now all the grand tours and cycling events have a focus on showing the scenery and the magnificent backdrops.
The production of cycling has changed enormously over the years. Phil discusses how in his early years he was a one-man show. He now works with NBC and there is over 200 staff. His role has been simplified to 5min calls between ad breaks. There is someone at the start and finish to do all the athlete interviews.
Phil describes the Tour De France in recent years as "boring" and that radios on the cyclists should be removed so we can see the great escapes!
Towards the end of the episode, Phil shares his thoughts on the greatest and most loved cyclists in the sport. He addresses the fact that there have always been drugs and cheating in sport.
Check below for the timestamps and some great quotes.
6min – Intro
7.50 – Reliving July with Phil – the emotion of no tour in July
9.30 – The impact Phil has had on two generations
11.30 – “The big adventurer”
12.20 – Thoughts on Triathlon – Olympics, and Ironman
14.40 – Greg and Sian Welch – Foster Ironman
15.50 – Greg meeting Phil Liggett in 2008
16.40 – Admiration for calling horse racing
17.45 – “I hated the first stage of every race” – Identifying athletes
18.45 – Pronouncing names
19.20 – Phil describes not being able to see the athletes.
20.00 – Greg thanks Phil for doing Introduction, midroll, and outro for the podcast
21.00 – Being confined to Sth Africa due to COVID
21.30 – Phil describes finding a Passion for Cycling
26.00 – Moving from Cycling to journalism in London
27.30 – Combining Racing and journalism
28.50 – Breaking records - Winchester to Wantage to in Hamshire – 80miles – stood for 10 years
30.15 – Phil describes how lucky he is “I feel incredibly lucky and grateful, I turned my hobby into a way of life”
31.30 – Greg explains using sport to experience lives lessons
32.30 – How Phil prepares for a call – how he comes up with his quotes – Phil and Paul Bingo
34.30 – Research in the 70s, 80’s and 90s before the internet
35.30 – Phil describes his logbook
36.45 – 150 million people a day are watching the tour – Phil figured that they are not all cyclists and so started talking about other things than just the race – stop the old lady from getting up until the commercial break
38.45 – The organizations started providing more information
41.00 – April 1978 first time going live on TV – Crystal Palace – Phil was the race director and doing the commentary – “I thought it was crap” - “If you’re not nervous before you go live then get out… you’ve got to be just like you’re riding a bike race or starting a triathlon… you got to feel it in your body… let's go, lets unleash the demon in us now”
46.30 – “I never knew what my first words were going to be because I script nothing”
47.00 – Phil describes his photographic memory
49.20 – Losing his voice – pacing himself for weeks on the tour – Phil has never come off from the tour
51.30 – Phil’s - routine day for the tour
53.00 – Managing energy – NBC incredible support
55.00 – How the tour coverage has changed - New network channel 4 – started work live with them – produce, direct and do everything else
1.02.00 – Where cycling is now - how it was back in the 80s -Phil’s story of no picture
1.04.00 – I don’t like riders with radio’s – today things have become automated
1.05.00 – Things do go wrong – Phil shares some fantastic stories
1.06.50 – Moments of the tour – “The tour is going to be a target for every idiot” – Phil describes some great stories of the tour
1.09.20 – Phil’s thoughts on Festina and Lance
1.11.20 – Phil discusses the first tour de France’s
1.13.00 – Phil’s favorite tour and favorite moment “Next time Liggett get it bloody right”
1.15.40 – The call of the Stephen Roche in 1987 – Stephan Roche the Giro, World Championships and the Tour
1.21.00 – Phil describes the greatest cyclist – Eddy Merckx
1.22.20 – Phil describes the most loved cyclist – Raymond Poulidor
1.25.30 – The past 9 years – non-continental European – thoughts on Cadel Evans – thoughts on the Ineos (Sky) team – “It’s a very boring situation”
1.29.40 – Salary caps – “The first thing to do is stop the radios”
1.31.00 – Phil describes his real love of the animals and the planet and his charities
HelpinfRhinos.org. Plus a new foundation called the Paul Sherwan Phil Liggett foundation helping African people and animals, and in the process of building Freedom to roam adventures – rhinos and koalas
1.34.20 – Conclusion
1.35.00 – Final question – Will there be a Tour De France in 2020 Phil says 50/50
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And check out Phil Liggett
Plus a new foundation called the Paul Sherwan Phil Liggett foundation helping African people and animals, and in the process of building Freedom to roam adventures – rhinos and koalas
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