Over the next few episodes of From the Top I switch gears to speak to iconic individuals within the cycling industry to better understand how they got to where they are. First up, I speak to Phil Liggett about how he got his start in commentating, how he met Paul Sherwin, how he’s been doing since Paul’s untimely passing, his relationship/fallout with Lance Armstrong, and the cutthroat nature of his position at the top of his profession.
Liggett is undeniably the most recognisable voice in cycling and has brought the sport we all love into the mainstream through his ‘Liggetisms’, descriptions of chateaus and his dulcet tones with co-commentator the late Paul Sherwin.
Many enthusiasts say that Phil is long past his prime and should retire. There’s no denying that we’re in a new age from when Phil started commenting before many of us were even born, and the media landscape is a very different place now than it was then. But Phil has witnessed and called so many of cyclings most significant and historic moments and made us all jump out of our chairs with excitement, and you have to thank him for being part of those memories. Personally, I bookmark my years by who won the TdF in that particular July, and Phil and Paul’s voices are part of that.
Phil is now 76 years old and has been commentating since the late 70’s. Think about that. His impact on the sport and his pioneering role has been tremendous. These days while he might get some details wrong while calling the race in front of millions of people, I call tell you firsthand through many interactions with him that he’s still sharp as a tack. And while as much as you don’t want to hear it, his commentary isn’t really for you or me, the hardcore cycling fan - it’s for the people who immerse themselves into the Tour de France once a year, and they still love him.
From starting as an aspiring pro bike racer, to a journalist, to commentating with the late Paul Sherwin for 33 years, now in the twilight of his remarkable life and career. I sat down with Phil to hear how he got started, and some of his struggles along the way.