Having watched the Dauphiné on French TV it was nice to be able to watch the race on a proper TV screen rather than a pirate feed over the internet. But it wasn’t perfect thanks to the commentary on France Télévisions. The pair of sports generalist Thierry Adam and ex-rider Laurent Jalabert doesn’t work.
Adam in particular is tiresome, he knows little about the sport but clearly has a file on the French riders with their personal details. So you get details of a rider’s wife or where he lives, but weak analysis on the race, the course and the strategies at work. Jalabert does offer technical insight but seems unwilling to halt the barrage of nonsense emitted by Adam.
Laurent Fignon worked with Adam for the last few Tours but the French legend is battling cancer and likely to miss the Tour this July. Fignon’s style is such that he’d correct Adam on air in the most satisfying blunt manner: “no Thierry, you’re quite wrong” was a frequent refrain.
Why not cut the sound?
Frustration with cycling commentators is common, fans can be driven to despair by some voices. Why is this so? We don’t get so frustrated with news readers or rant about other sports commentators? My take is that a bike race is a long affair and the action takes place over several hours. So the ability to talk whilst little is happening is essential but this is harder than it sounds. You can’t repeat yourself and have to come up with new information. At the same time an ability to analyse the subtle tactics is very important, it is like watching a chess match and requires a sophisticated level of commentary.
My prayers answered
Whilst cycling is on terrestrial channels France 2 and 3, Eurosport also shows the sport. Here you get audio caviar from Patrick Chassé and Jacky Durand. Both are experts, both can talk and they even have an excellent chemistry. Durand is able to bring information from the race village to his commentary and doesn’t count on his background as a top French rider as the reason to sit in the studio. Instead he clearly does a lot of work off air to stay up to date, he’s becoming a good journalist. It’s a joy to listen to this.
It’s hard work commentating. Try turning the sound off and then dubbing your own audio onto a broadcaster. You won’t last long. Identifying the riders, trying to talk and having a producer making announcements in your ear all makes it hard.
But that doesn’t give some broadcasters excuses, commentators on several channels prove they can do it right whilst others fail. It’s a shame the French national broadcaster falls into the latter category.