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 9th 2015 @ 12:48pm
      martin bailey said | July 9th 2015 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

      I agree with Tom Fish for those of us unfortunate enough to have Liggitt and Sherwen as commentators. I can tolerate the mistakes by Phil Liggett, but Paul Sherwen’s inane commentary makes me mute the TV. The last couple of years Sherwen has two or three favorite riders and all he does is go on and on about those riders repeating himself excessively within the space of a few minutes irrespective as to what is happening in the race, I wonder if he is being paid to promote them. The first hour of the 5th stage today was very pleasant with and Australian commentator who just gave the information it was very enjoyable, why can’t he do the whole stage?

    • July 11th 2016 @ 9:06am
      Streever said | July 11th 2016 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      I’m reviving a necro-thread obviously, but folks, TDF coverage is 6 hours, and commentators are providing coverage for as many as 6 streams!

      Mistakes happen: people are human. As the writer notes, many of the mistakes come direct from the organization.

      Furthermore, the video intro? for commentators? Please. You expect a commentator to keep straight 180 names from riders from all over the world? It seems a bit silly. I don’t think Edvald Boasson Hagen is losing sleep over English commentators saying “Edward” in a moment of excitement.

      • July 17th 2016 @ 9:04pm
        Vernal said | July 17th 2016 @ 9:04pm | ! Report

        Just yesterday I heard Matthew Keenan say he had been “doing this” for 11 years. I took that to mean that he has been commentating on the TDF *in France* 11 times. I was surprised to hear that, considering that he has great difficulty pronouncing the French riders’ names correctly. Seriously? Nary a French lesson in 11 years? Nobody recorded the names for him so that he can do them the respect of saying their names properly? It’s totally crazy how badly he does with non-English names. Imanol Erviti becomes “Eevairtee”. I though my countrymen were the worst (American)! Apparently not. I do enjoy hearing what Mr. McEwen has to say, though. And his pronunciation is a million times better.

    • July 11th 2016 @ 3:18pm
      maria szczerba said | July 11th 2016 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

      While you out there or some of you may or may not Like certain people of the commentary! I must admit in all the years i have been watching tour de france! I enjoy the commentaries of paul phil matthew david and scott sutherland david mckenzie and phil anderson. You see these people legends have all ridden not just tdf but giro and other cycling races and all of them have a wealth of knowledge and know the different places of france! The only thing i hate is when the picture freezes up when watching or at the end you do not see all jersey presentations. Vive le tour!! Love gabriel gate le tour and the places he visits with his recipes and different foods in rsgions.

    • July 6th 2017 @ 11:09am
      Ria said | July 6th 2017 @ 11:09am | ! Report

      I should not be surprised that someone is complaining about something.however, I am surprised. I like all the commentary at the races, Phil, Paul. Robbie, all add color to the long races. I’m pleased to get coverage glad to listen to some of the silliness and knowledgeable experience of Bob Roll.

      Just cut the sound if the commentary doesn’t meet expectation. I often find storylines, by play and mistakes charming. Just enjoy.

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