Phil and Paul’s ITV4 absence revisited

A lot of people are really, really angry about Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen being dumped as ITV4’s Tour de France commentators. I find this fascinating.

I’ve mentioned Phil and Paul’s departure on three occasions. The piece linked above attracted any number of comments bemoaning their absence, as did my original piece about ITV4’s coverage. In contrast, a piece I wrote for my day job at saw most respondents expressing support for the decision.

Of those who are against their absence, some have gone on the offensive. However, I’m taking much of the criticism of Ned Boulting and David Millar – Phil and Paul’s replacements – with a pinch of salt. It strikes me that for a lot of people, no substitutes would ever do.

But why? What’s so special about Phil and Paul?

In response to one person who said the decision to chuck the long-serving duo meant they would not be watching the race, I suggested that this was like boycotting your favourite restaurant because they’ve changed the napkins. This is how it seems to me. I never felt the pair added a lot. At the same time, I can’t deny the obvious depth of feeling others had for them.

Tradition is, it seems, a powerful thing. Personally, I have always seen ‘tradition’ as being the explanation people give for doing something when there’s no longer a logical reason for doing it. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those for whom the Tour de France is gentle escapism with Phil and Paul an integral part of an annual appointment which just happens to revolve around bike racing. If few would put themselves in that exact category, it’s nevertheless true that the non-cycling trivia is still a major joy of the race for most people.

Lessons for Phil and Paul’s replacements

Reading between the lines of the many comments left on this site, it’s clear that idle chit-chat about chateaux is the main area where Ned and Dave aren’t up to the mark. This isn’t as trivial as it seems, because if the highlights show focuses primarily on the racing, the live broadcast is far more a travel programme.

Again, I’ll repeat my point that Liggett and Sherwen are pretty awful at getting people’s names right and personally I think that’s a really important and basic aspect of commentary. The fact that their commentary was primarily for an American audience also meant lots of long, rambling discussion of the prospects of riders like Tejay Van Garderen and Andrew Talansky, neither of whom have ever really shown too many signs of making an impact.

Ned and Dave are proving good replacements when it comes to the racing, but they have a broader remit than that. A lot of people are resistant to change, but there is still something of a theme to complaints about their work. It is probably worth paying heed to them.

So Ned, Dave: More inconsequential cobblers about scenery! You have to take this part of the job more seriously.

Stage 10

I rambled on about that way more than I meant to. I’d intended today’s post to be more of a rest day round-up.

Here’s the top ten.


And below is the stage profile for stage 10.

You’d assume the sprinters’ teams will try and engineer it so everyone finishes together, but that category three climb near the end could disrupt them. It’s nothing too major though, so maybe not.

Delicacies of this region include hypocras (described as a “medieval aperitif”) and several types of cassoulet, including mounjetado, “mountain cassoulet”.

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2016 Tour de France, stage 10