Phil Liggett’s top 10 Tour moments
Phil Liggett, the Voice of Cycling, share his 10 best moments from 40 years commentating on Le Tour de France …
- My first Tour (in 1973) will always remain my best memory. The event was more than I expected and the sun shone from start to finish. Spain’s Luis Ocana dominated the race, and it was my introduction to a unique sporting happening.
- When I first went to the Tour there had never been an English-speaking winner, so it was a great pleasure to commentate on the first American (Greg LeMond), first Irishman (Stephen Roche), and the first British rider (Bradley Wiggins).
- When LeMond won his second Tour in 1989 by eight seconds, I predicted it would happen, but by six seconds. The television viewers complained that I had given the result away before they watched, but they had not realized that the program was live. I felt very sorry for Frenchman Laurent Fignon, who was not expected to lose on the final day into Paris.
- The Tour has been a magnet for film stars, and it has been a great pleasure to meet true enthusiasts like Ben Stiller and Robin Williams. It was also a special moment when Cameron Diaz joined me in the commentary box to watch a finish in Bordeaux.
- The Tour has grown immensely in size and popularity. Visiting chateaux and drinking wine with the owners was part of the day’s work on the race. Now, it is too big, and we travel overnight to the next finish and just talk about the chateaux instead.
- When I covered the early Tours (1973-1978) as a journalist and driver, I was always happy to reach the hotel at the day’s end. Driving in front of the race down the mountains of France with tyres screaming was never enjoyable to me. But the adrenalin usually meant a good story filed at the end of the day.
- Every rider who completes the Tour de France is special, but the feats of those who joined the Famous Five club (five wins) were the best. Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain all had very different characters, but one thing in common: they were real champions.
- In the days before mobile phones and computers, we all used to muse at the Colombian radio presenters pumping coins into roadside phone booths while feeding their program – complete with adverts – to Bogata. They assured me listeners lived for every word, as the race was very popular in the 80s because of the success of Luis Herrera and Fabio Parra.
- Once, I remember seeing the great race director, Jacques Goddet, standing through the roof of his vehicle in his deerstalker, signaling the start. Trouble was the crowds had spilled onto the road and his car went the opposite way to the race.
- Blagnac, near Toulouse, provided a comic moment when a storm caused the canopy to collapse over the international commentary positions and blow all the TV sets out. This left viewers around the world with perfect pictures and the commentators with none. I finished my commentary by listening to my producer on the phone describing the pictures from London. All the other commentators kept coming over to look at my monitor as they thought I had pictures.