Doing the Lead | Part 1

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‘Lead Commentator: The primary speaker who (aims to) articulately describe each play of an often fast moving sporting event, whilst conveying relative tension, drama and excitement.’

‘Lead Commentator: The primary speaker who (aims to) articulately describe each play of an often fast moving sporting event, whilst conveying relative tension, drama and excitement.’

 

Back in December, following my first few co-commentary stints with them, I’d been asked by Eurosport if I’d ever thought about or considered the lead commentary role. My first reaction, thankfully internalised, was, ‘You want me in charge? Of totally talking about a bike race ? Not just adding bits about bikes and tactics? All of it? Like the bits not to do with bike racing at all? Like wine, architecture, population demographics, woodpiles?’ My second, vocalised this time and delivered so as to belie my surprise (whilst at the same time not being disingenuous) was, “Kind of, but not for a few years..” I mean, I had actually thought about it, quite a lot actually, but more playful musing in a far off corner of my frontal lobes than reasoned ambition. To put it simply I was surprised but at the same time quite flattered. ‘I guess I must be doing ok,’ I thought to myself, whilst feeling a little bit sick with the type of knot you get in your stomach just before starting a new job or moving up a year at school.

 

My first lead role was scheduled to be the Tour of California, at the time a distant 6 months hence, in May. In the interim I was advised to watch, learn and question the lead commentators I was to work with on races I was doing co-comms on: Carlton Kirby, Rob Hatch and Declan Quigley: all guys I respect and get on with both in and out of the booth and all of whom have distinctly differing approaches and style to their commentary, which in turn gave me a far deeper, diverse pool of skill, method and experience to draw and learn from. The five or six races on the run in to California I approached with mindset quite different than before. Rather than solely focussing on ‘my role’ I tried to up my game; give a little more whilst not trying to step on the toes of the lead I was working with. The co-commentator/analyst, or ‘colour’ as they are sometimes known, generally provide race analysis, background rider information, parcours or rider statistics or tactical information as the race unfolds. I did that but tried to weave and combine that often dry subject matter within a narrative that complemented that of my lead.

 

I think I just need to add that I feel remarkably privileged to be able to do what I do. Cycling and bike racing is my passion. I get paid to talk to people about it. And I love doing it. So I reckon I owe it to the people who a) share my proclivity and b) have taken the time to tune in, to convey as much spirit, enthusiasm and excitement into my commentary as I can – plus humour of course. As well as obscure cultural references. Cycling is brutal, unforgiving, often cruel, so it sometimes deserves/needs a lightness of touch. I’m a fan too. That’s what I’d expect from a commentator. As well as having trust in their expertise and ability to impart information, I want to get a sense that they are genuinely enjoying what they do too.

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