At Tour De France, Catch The Greatest Announcer Most Americans Have Never Heard

TOPSHOT - Colombian's Egan Bernal, (R), in the overall leader's yellow Jersey (C-R) and cyclists [+] ride down Champs Elysees avenue near the Arc de Triomphe, during the 21st stage of the 106th Tour de France cycling race, between Rambouillet et Paris Champs-Elysees. This was held in Paris on July 28, 2019. (Photo by AnneChristine POOUJOULAT / AFP). (Photo credit should be ANNE-CHRISTINE PAOUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images). AFP via Getty ImagesAlthough bicycle road racing is a relatively niche sport in North America, there are many reasons that nearly 400,000 Americans tune into the Tour de France 2021 edition. This three-week-long event is broadcast on NBCSN and occasionally on other NBC stations. It is also streaming on Peacock. Bicycling enthusiasts and professionals alike will enjoy the thrill of watching the top cyclists race up the mountains or in white-knuckle sprints. The stunning scenery of France in midsummer is captured through aerial shots that look amazing on UHD TVs. This makes it a great backdrop for Americans enjoying their morning coffee as the event airs live in Europe. You can also hear the legendary announcer of all sports, who is now in the final stretch of his long and distinguished career.Phil Liggett is that man. He was an amateur cyclist, but saw a better future in sports journalism and decided to pursue it. British-born, the 77-year-old Liggett is the voice of cycling in English-speaking countries. He will be announcing the 45th Tour de France. He has covered many international events and cycling. His narration and trademark Liggetisms have made this sport popular among millions of English-speakers.LOS ANGELES (CALIFORNIA), MAY 10, 2019. Phil Liggett speaks at the team presentation before the... [+] 14th Amgen Tour of California 2019, / #AmgenTOC /@AmgenTOC / May 10, 2019, Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images). Getty ImagesHe and Paul Sherwen, an ex-pro cyclist and fellow Brit, formed the longest ever sports announcer duo, lasting 33 years, starting in 1985. Sherwen's sudden death in 2018 ended that partnership. Liggett will now be joined by Bob Roll, an American retired bicycle racer.Liggett's soft tones and command of his subject matter help newcomers understand the details of sprint points, breakaways and pelotons. He also provides valuable information for seasoned fans about the riders, teams and course. Sports announcers are expected to explain the sport and its intricacies. Cycling presents unique challenges.The Tour de France is a three-week long event. Each stage broadcast lasts five hours. This is a lot of time to fill regardless of how compelling an event may be. To be fair, the majority of stage bike races, even the TdF aren't very compelling. These are endurance races that often see smaller groups of less-known riders work hard to build leads for a few minutes. The pack then takes over a mile away to create a contest between the favorites. There are many moments that appear innocent or decisive, but it is hard to see the full implications of the competition for first-time viewers.The action begins with a climb up a mountain in the Alps, Pyrenes or Pyrenes. Or a sprint to the end of a flat stage. Sometimes there are crashes and pileups. Imagine being asked to describe a football game that lasts ten minutes and involves every player, or a hockey match that lasts ten minutes with twenty players.For decades, Liggett made these difficult tasks seem easy. Liggett can spot riders in a crowd and provide a commentary on team and individual tactics. This then helps to increase the excitement when things move quickly. Without having to explain the details, he can simplify the sport's complexities or tease his coworkers about them. He is able to take up endless amounts of time with grace, using personal anecdotes and his vast knowledge of the sport, local color, trivia, bits of information fed to him from producers, a constant barrage of canned features, interviews, and commercial breaks to fill in the time while still maintaining good humor with his announcer partner. Liggett and his English-language partners take the French live video feed. This means that Liggett, his partners, and producers, have little to no control over the changes in camera shots or if they decide to move from one area of action to another.Although no one can expect to be perfect in such situations, Liggett makes it seem like even minor missteps are part of the sport. In the difficult period between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s when doping was rampant, Liggett helped cycling to manage it. The results of the races that were shown live could be reversed by positive lab results hours, weeks, or even years later. Although he was a long-standing skeptic about the claims against some top cycling names like Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis (both now stripped of their titles, disgraced), he believed the best of the athletes that he covered. His disappointment and disapproval at the revelation of misconduct spoke volumes for his frustrations and those in his audience, who wanted to be fans and weren't interested in being deceived.He was also faced with the additional challenge of covering the Tour in the COVID year. Fans along the route were prohibited and riders and teams were required to wear masks when riding. It was an odd spectacle that culminated in one of the greatest upsets on the last day. Liggett's familiar voice helped to ease the discomfort.Liggett will be back this year, paired again with Roll and a studio team consisting of former American cyclists Chris Horner, Christian Vandevelte and a host of other commentators. However, the NBCsn feed does not include the commercial-free streaming coverage available on Peacock Premium. Liggett is a great broadcaster in a sport that has seen its ups and falls for over a century. Even if it's only for a moment, catch him while you still can.