The Tour de France is about to start and those of us who has to follow the race behind our desks at work, David Harmon and Sean Kelly of Eurosport will be the guide for the race for the next three weeks. We asked David a couple of questions about commenting – be sure to read the interview if you wanted to know who his favourite rider is!
How did you get into commentating?
David Harmon It was total luck really, if you can call it luck! I was working on motor sports programmes for a well known independent company and due to go to the Le Mans 24hr race to collect interviews and information for my boss. When we arrived he informed me that he had inadvertently double booked himself to commentate on the race for opposing TV networks and chucked me in a commentary booth and told me to get on with it. I did 17 hours out of 24 that weekend by myself, a real baptism of fire.
Later I sent a copy of my commentary work to Eurosport and my colleague and now great friend David Duffield suggested that whilst I hadn’t been very good on a bike myself I could talk! I did my first day at Eurosport 10 years ago in the Vuelta with Sean Kelly.
How do you prepare for a race/stage, how much preparation does it take?
DH That’s a bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question. You can do as much or as little prep as you like. Personally I like to ride at least part of each day before we get in the booth, especially the run into the finish. Thankfully I am blessed with good short term memory as I can absorb info about the race quirks, any news, the region etc quite well. I will usually prep the night before and read all the papers in the morning just to keep it fresh.
What was the most exciting race you ever commentated?
DH Did you really need to ask? Last year’s World Championship road race in Copenhagen. It gave us a British World Champion and I lost my voice, the first time that’s ever happened to me.
Do you have favourite riders? Do you, can you allow yourself to have favourite riders on air?
DH I don’t see a problem in saying you have favourite riders on air, after all I’m just a fan who has the very great privilege of being paid to be a fan. What you can’t do is become partisan or jingoistic in the extreme. I am afraid this does happen with some nations broadcasters and I am very much against it. There is no harm in flying the flag a little but you have to be balanced.
I love gutsy riders who aren’t afraid to attack and wear their hearts on their sleeves, like Tommy Voeckler but I admire the big rouleurs who do so much work kilometre after kilometre and know tactics inside out, riders like Vincente Garcia Acosta.
What was the most poignant moment you’ve seen in cycling during your career?
DH The Leopard Trek team and Tyler Farrar crossing the line together the day after the death of Leopard Trek riders Wouter Weylandt in the Giro.
What was the biggest mistake you’ve made while commenting?
DH Swearing at a producer whilst on air…hey we’re all human