Cycling TV: Remembering The Legacy Of Analyst Paul Sherwen

“Put your head on the stem.. And go!”

Those are the words I hear in my head when looking for a little extra oomph while trying to stay with other cyclists during a fast-moving, single-line peloton, which is the main group or pack of riders.

These were NBC Sports cycling analyst Paul Sherwen's words when it came to big TV cycling events -- like the Tour de France. It's what might be screamed at a breakaway rider close to a victory: Put your head down, dig in and go faster.

It is a cool sentiment in focusing on intense, big drama moments around professional road cycling.

Sherwen died over the weekend in his home in Uganda. He was 62. After a long career as a professional road cyclist, including completing seven Tour de Frances, he spent another 33 years as a TV cycling analyst, often with his long time on-air partner Phil Liggett.

The pair were the major English-language TV cycling on-air team in the U.S. for major cycling events — including the Tour de France — which aired initially on OLN (the Outdoor Life Network), then Versus, and finally NBCSN. Sherwen also did cycling work at Australian TV network SBS.



In the U.S., Sherwen, along with Liggett, helped move the sport to new visibility — covering the rise of U.S. cyclists, including Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories for performance-enhancing drug use.

TV sports analysts can add key insight and weight for somewhat lesser prominent U.S. TV sports. In the U.S., professional road cycling is one of those.

But for many TV networks, these sports can now be seen as key channels when it comes to overall “premium” TV,  especially in commanding high carriage fees from pay TV providers -- traditional, virtual or otherwise. Sports is premium TV because it is live TV.

To be sure, many cycling races can be somewhat boring to viewers. Perhaps other sports have those moments. Baseball? Golf? 

In this regard, Sherwen kept us entertained throughout — sometimes with the help of helicopter shots of video in describing great points of interest, mostly in Europe, around big three-week races. He supplied a travelogue for U.S. TV viewers.

But there were other associations as well: “As the French would say today, he is riding with great panache. Cycling is a complicated sport. One man’s tactic is another man’s derision.”

Near the end of those long three- to-five-hour bike races, he would also describe how riders in the peloton would pull back the breakaway: “He’s reeling them in like a fisherman with a trout on the line.”

We were all pulled in.

1 comment about "Cycling TV: Remembering The Legacy Of Analyst Paul Sherwen".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, December 4, 2018 at 3:25 p.m.

    I was deeply saddened by the news of Paul Sherwen's passing way too soon.

    While I ever saw Paul race the stories of his determination and 'never-give-in' attitude are legendary.

    I will never forget sitting up all night on July 22, 2011 watching Stage 19 of the TDF.   His commentary with Phil Liggett when Cadel Evans looked around at the pursuit group, none of who wanted to chase the lead group, stood up on his pedals and took off was electrifying.   While Evans finished fourth on that Stage he had seen off Voeckler and moved to 3rd in the General Classification, and with just the ITT to come as a competitive stage it was clear he had the legs to take time off the Shleck brothers and had sealed his Tour de France victory - a first from an Aussie.

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