Tour de France commentary simply isn’t good enough

Tom Fish Roar Guru

By Tom Fish, Tom Fish is a Roar Guru

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    Matthew Goss causes interference in the 2012 Tour de France, much to Peter Sagan's displeasure (Image: ASO)

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    Since I first began watching cycling from the 2011 Tour de France, there is one particular thing I have noticed about the coverage.

    No, it isn’t the picture break-up, I think we can forgive the broadcasters that, seeing as they are streaming from a motorbike, into the truck at the finish, and back to their headquarters.

    No, the real bugbear of cycling coverage for me is the bad state of the commentary.

    Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen are particularly guilty of this.

    Now I can’t imagine a Tour de France without Liggett’s voice in the background, but every year I have listened to them commentate I find myself wondering how they manage to keep their job.

    The occasional misnomer I think we can all forgive, but with the commentators of cycling today it is a constant stream of mispronounced names, wrong names, wrong facts and wrong teams.

    I have lost count of the number of times I have heard Edvald Boasson Hagen be referred to as ‘Edward’ Boasson Hagen, or Geraint Thomas’ first name being pronounced as if the commentator has a back-load of phlegm in their throat.

    Mispronunciation is commonplace in cycling coverage, and with the technology available today, it would not be difficult for a team to put a video on each rider’s profile with them saying hello, and then their name.

    This I feel would solve a lot of pronunciation dilemmas for commentators, and would end the debate on how to pronounce names such as Voeckler, Hesjedal and Fuglsang.

    Today was a particularly embarrassing day for cycling commentators everywhere, as when Jan Bakelants crossed the line to win Stage 2 of the 2013 Tour de France, most of the men commentating announced it as Markel Irizar taking the win.

    Admittedly, this is not completely the commentator’s fault, the Tour had already put a graphic up saying it was Irizar ahead, not Bakelants, but it has shown that a better way of identifying riders from the front is needed.

    How that may be is not up to me to decide as regrettably, I am not one of the candidates for UCI Presidency this year.

    But it is something that the UCI needs to look into.

    The last point about the state of commentary in cycling is simple doing your homework.

    Quite often I will hear rider’s achievements being listed, and will hear things that are just not right.

    Today I heard that Tony Martin had finished second in last year’s time trial world championship, even the most casual cycling follower would know that he is in fact the current world champion in the discipline.

    Commentators are being paid for their efforts, they also get to travel to places in the cycling world that most of us can only dream of going to, in my opinion it is time they started justifying their place in the cycling world.

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    The Crowd Says (67)

    • July 5th 2013 @ 11:48am
      Ted Mulder said | July 5th 2013 @ 11:48am | ! Report

      Like to add to my previous comment that there are sports commentators who would put the likes of Liggett and Sherwen to shame. In football, for example, you would never hear the likes of Martin Tyler, or even Les Murray, mispronounce the names of players in any game, be it English or a foreign European/South American/Asian one. These men are thorough professionals in every respect, be it about facts and details or the pronunciation of even the most obscure foreign name. Kudos to them.

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        July 5th 2013 @ 12:25pm
        HardcorePrawn said | July 5th 2013 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

        A broad sweeping statement there Ted.

        While I’m a big fan of Les and his cohorts it seems that few at TWG can even pronounce Swansea City correctly, it should be similar to Swan-zy, not Swan-Sea, as Les and the rest of them often seem to think it is.
        I’ve also heard the occasional uses of Burr-Ming-Ham, West Brom-Witch, Nor-Witch, Derr-bee…

        No-one’s perfect, as I once told a colleague who said that he’d been impressed with the recent performance of a team he called ‘Paris [English pronunciation] Saint German’.

        • July 5th 2013 @ 12:47pm
          Ted Mulder said | July 5th 2013 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

          Agree with you that most at TWG (or Fox for that matter) show the same ignorance as Sherwen et al. With the exception of Les, probably because he is European born and educated, as well as Martin Tyler and probably because he has shown an intelligent integrity that’s the hallmark of a top professional commentator. But they are few and far in between.

          • July 5th 2013 @ 1:09pm
            Frank Stolp said | July 5th 2013 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

            There are always people whining about something.
            Get real and enjoy the cycling, the beautiful scenery and the nice food.
            Okay some times the commentators slip up, I like to see the whingers do better.

            • July 5th 2013 @ 6:50pm
              Ted Mulder said | July 5th 2013 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

              That wouldn’t be hard to do.

    • July 10th 2013 @ 4:29am
      Will said | July 10th 2013 @ 4:29am | ! Report

      Mr. Liggett, I have enjoyed you for over 30 years, but you need to look at todays footage again during the last sprint to the line. And please not that I am not a supporter of Cavendish, but he was being blocked by the Argos rider to assist his rider, and when Cavendish “bumped” him, (very softly I might add) he throw his bike down in hopes of getting Cavendish too. Clearly, he was instructed to take out Cavendish in my opinion, as he was looking around too much for him, slowed his bike and traveled too much off his line to make contact with Cavendish.

      Fix is in….

      But I still enjoy listening to you!

      All my best,


    • July 18th 2013 @ 10:36pm
      Mark_Thomas said | July 18th 2013 @ 10:36pm | ! Report

      If you’re fed up with the TV boys, I recommend Simon Brotherton and Rob Hayles on Radio Five-Live – a combination of erudite quick-wit and subject savvy that paints a thousand pictures, or something…

    • July 7th 2014 @ 2:39pm
      Paul said | July 7th 2014 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

      Mispronunciation of names is one of my constant compaints sports commentators, especially on the BBC which has a pronunciation unit

    • July 8th 2014 @ 6:07am
      The Reiver said | July 8th 2014 @ 6:07am | ! Report

      Commentators should stick to racing and quit creating pseudo history. They constantly attributed closing monasteries to Henry VII ratherl than Henry VIII. They also included the Tudors in the Wars of The Roses. The two events were about 100 years apart.
      They are on much sounder ground when talking about the race

    • July 24th 2014 @ 11:27pm
      Keith Edwards said | July 24th 2014 @ 11:27pm | ! Report

      after passing through the Feeding Stations the riders throw most of the food away. What is in the bag ? what do they throw away. Surely by now the food suppliers would know what to pack !

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