An Interview with Eurosport’s David Harmon

Monday, 4 February 2013

TV commentary is one of those jobs that everyone thinks is easy… until they try it. The next you watch a race try pressing mute and replacing the audio with your own commentary and see how you get on.

David Harmon is one of Eurosport’s commentators. If you watch cycling this year you’re bound to hear him at work, hopefully via full HD and clear audio but maybe via a pirate audio feed.

Here he talks about the job, how it’s changed, what it’s like to talk for six hours non-stop and more.


- Let’s start with some background. Do you ride your bike much?
Nowhere near as much as I would like, especially in the last 18 months. Since the moment Mark Cavendish crossed the line in Copenhagen it’s been a mad roller coaster of interest in cycling here in the U.K. For years Sean Kelly and myself have ridden together most mornings during the Giro and the Vuelta but even that had to take a back seat in 2012.

Alongside the commentary I run Spokesmen Ltd, a cycling focused Media and PR Agency with my colleague Lara Thornton. We have been lucky enough to have helped shape the bid for the 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart in the English county of Yorkshire which we are very proud of but it’s meant that work has had to be the priority over riding this last year and the extra 12 kilos can illustrate it!

- You’d been covering other motorsports on Eurosport before moving to cycling?
I actually began commentary work at the Le Mans 24 Hour race a few years before I joined Eurosport. I was rather pitched into it by accident but have never looked back. I sometimes miss the motor racing but cycling was always my first love as a sport and I am incredibly grateful that I have been allowed to establish a career in the sport I love.

- How long have you been covering cycling with Eurosport?
This will be my eleventh full season.

- Has the job changed over the years?
Yes, I’d say that many of the races, most notably the Tour have grown into larger and larger business operations and the volume of media coverage is now immense. It means that you have to try and mark yourself out as ‘a brand’ I’ve always tried to make commentary have something of a radio show appeal, something informative and entertain but familiar and comfortable which has to continue to evolve.

The willingness of the media to speak out against fraud and duplicity too has gained strength and I think that many from the old school of reporting have found that hard to adapt to or admit their part in it. There has been a lot of wringing of hands amongst some in the media who have had plenty of opportunities to speak out in the past but haven’t and some who have now find themselves at the vanguard of change.

The biggest change though is the over arching presence of the internet. It’s so easy for anyone to gain information now, as the event unfolds live, that it makes the job of commentator far more subtle that just the calling of a race. It’s a magnificent and challenging thing.

- What’s it like to talk non-stop for hours? And do you do any vocal exercises like opera singers or politicians?
Honestly, I’ve never had a problem. I’ve never lost my voice or dried up on air. I’ve never had to do any special exercises I just turn up and talk. Having said that I spent my childhood as a boy soprano at Westminster Abbey in London and sang in a number of bands in my 20’s and I think that helped greatly in developing a flexible and resilient voice.

- I think the job can be harder than it sounds. People at home with big screen TVs, comfortable sofas and quiet rooms might not know you’re sometimes in a tiny box office looking into a small screen whilst there’s noise outside and you have a producer giving you instructions in one ear. Are there any moments that stand out as a challenge?
Technically I’ve not usually had a problem, I did rant once on air at a producer but I think all commentators are entitled to the odd rant. It’s a job that requires passion for the subject matter and that can sometimes bubble over. In truth the greatest challenge is from having to deal with performances unfolding in front of you that are just so astounding and abnormal that you know precisely what’s happening but you just can’t say it straight out. The list is endless; Rasmussen, Armstrong and the Postals, Sella, Ricco, Mazzoleni… and on. I now confine myself to saying “that was an unbelievable performance” and I think everyone who follows my commentary knows exactly what I mean.

- Let’s look ahead to the season. How much will Eurosport be covering?
Eurosport are going all out this year, there will be up to 30 days extra coverage in 2013. All the classics as usual and the Grand Tours but a lot of the semi classics and week long Spanish races are being looked into as well.

- Who will be joining you, is Sean Kelly back for another season?
Sean will indeed be back with me for another season. I think the two of us are improving all the time but others such as Magnus Backstedt, Brian Smith and Dan Lloyd will be with me as well through the year. I can’t imagine a season without Sean, I see more of him than my family!

Sean Kelly and David Harmon

- Have you seen any footage from the early season? What do you think of the jerseys, easy to identify?
Yes they all look pretty easy to pick out, I especially like the Blanco kit

- Do you have a preferred race?
If you had asked me two years ago I would have said the Tour of Flanders without a doubt but I’m not convinced that the new finishing loops make for the best TV coverage. Of course it’s much easier for the spectators and they are immense in Flanders but somehow for me it just felt a bit flat last year. I do have a secret passion for the Vuelta. Possibly because it was the first major race I covered with Sean but it’s more than that, it seems to have this eternal air of melancholy about it, all those endless dusty plains and one horse towns as well as spectacular castles and mountains.

- What about riders? Do you try to stay neutral or are there some riders you want to see winning?
I like big strong workhorses, riders whose glory is built up over many years of loyal service not in the quest for personal glory, the real gregarios. Being partisan is OK as long as you say you are just going to lapse into it a bit and then you snap back out of it. I commentate for an international audience and by and large I am impartial, although I doubt the Aussies would agree…

- Finally is there any rivalry between the different channels are are commentators all united in the same job?
In truth a bit of both. We all help each other out but it’s limited market out there and we all want to be the best.

David Harmon Eurosport

Baz February 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm

David’s hiding his light under a bushel a bit when he talks about how much he rides. Not too long ago he had a serious go at the UK side-to-side tandem record (meaning to go on and do the Lands End-John O’Groats record next), that failed halfway when his teammate Jez Hastings broke a bone in his foot. They were ahead of schedule…

Salsiccia February 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I think we’re really lucky in the UK to have David and Sean commentating on British Eurosport. Lots of passion, humour and warmth from David, and all the ‘been there, done it’ expertise you could ever want from Sean.

I much prefer them to other options available…

Larry T. February 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm

We get Eurosport now and then if we can’t get RAI coverage in Italy. Pancani and Cassani there are my favorites but Sean Kelly gets better and better at his job. And of course pretty much anybody (including the mute button) is preferable to Heckel and Jeckel’s mindless blathering on races shown in the USA. One thing I’d like to remind ALL of the commentators is to remember it is TELEVISION, not radio. We can see what’s happening so there’s no need to fill every second with comments as if it was radio. Take a breath now and then and unless you have something interesting to say, consider silence for a bit, especially if the ambient sounds are available for broadcast.

Duncan February 4, 2013 at 5:29 pm

+1 for the ambient noise.

Craig February 6, 2013 at 3:49 am

+1000 for the ambient noise. Can’t recall which race last year that had zero commentary and just the sounds of the race, but it was great: could hear the fans shouting encouragement and breaks squealing, gears changing.

Al-Bo February 4, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I’ve a lot of time for David Harmon. There’s often not much going on in a bike race, so you rely on the commentator having a bit of a sense of humour to keep you interested and I think he delivers. Carlton Kirby’s random facts on the same channel also please me enormously.

ITV’s Tour and Vuelta highlights programmes are excellent, but the commentary’s dry and joyless. If they could make use of the words of Harmon and Kirby, I’d be a happy man.

rhys February 4, 2013 at 8:37 pm

Al, you hit the nail on the head with the sense of humour. I really like the team they have. Easy to listen to, and a great mix of Harmon’s suggestive questions and Kelly’s decisive answers.
In Australia we usually have Matt Keenan commentate before Phil and Paul take over, and now I find myself more and more wishing it was Keenan the whole time.

Simon February 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Good interview, ring. Thanks for that and good to get some of Harmon’s hinterland. They are the best of the bunch . . . . But Kelly’s endless repetition of around a dozen stock phrases does grate if you watch a lot of cycling. My particular bete noire is “playing a waiting game”. And there are many, many others. Kelly also witters on endlessly linking his stock phrases when there’s an embryonic break or a crash or something interesting happening right before our eyes. Harmon intercedes as politely as he can, but should jump in quicker. Kelly clearly has the experience to deliver the insight but too often lapses into “the usual” . He should listen to Phil Tufnel on Test Match Special – a masterclass in providing the detail and insight that comes with a long professional career and adds so much to the viewer/listener experience.

toe strap February 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Agree. E/sport commentary is always better when Backstead is the side kick.

hoh February 4, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Actually, one question regarding the euro-sports player.

Are they just live programming? Or you can do on-demand which means if you miss the programme, you can watch them later?

The Inner Ring February 4, 2013 at 3:08 pm

It is live and on-demand, you can go back and watch things. I don’t know if it covers every broadcast but I’ve used it to revisit things.

hoh February 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Interesting.

I subscribed for a month last April, mainly to watch Paris-Roubaix. I ended up missing first half of the board casting.

Couldn’t re-watch the programme on their broadcasting timeline whilst the video session only has uncommented 1~2 minutes excerpts of some smaller races.

If they’ve got a better on-demand interface (well, actually the website warrant a lot of improvement), I definitely would subscribe.

Tom February 4, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Sean Kelly also had some unbelievable performances in his day. Maybe one day David will ask him about those.

Bundle February 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Sean would surely like to tell us about the stage to Luchon in the 1983 TdF… I think Willy Voet wrote about that.

Joe K. February 5, 2013 at 6:17 am

David does ask Sean about the old days in the saddle, and about some old time competitors, but Kelly, being the gentleman and sage, avoids commenting on other riders. Kelly for UCI president, I say!!!

Raouligan February 4, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Harmon, Kelly and Kirby, do a fabulous job, there’s times I feel the actual racing coverage interrupts genuinely bright and inventive narrative about the region and landscape the race is passing through. The season can’t start quick enough for me.

More Eurosport coverage is great news for me although ones wife does find it a touch trying at times…

Mike de Garry February 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Harmon’s rider recognition is second to none, this is one of the crucial things to get right as a commentator, but not easy in these days of helmets and sunglasses. Kelly’s tactical brain seems to have adapted well to contemporary racing too. They’re a good team.

LWB February 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm

+1 on the rider recognition – Harmon is outrageously accurate. Light years ahead of Messers Liggett and Sherwen.

Simma February 4, 2013 at 11:32 pm

+1 for sure. Because of his amazing commentating when I end up with phil and paul for some god awful reason I have to mute the tele and commentate for myself. Oh and I kid you not, my gf got better at picking out cyclists than those 2 from just a year of being in the room while I watch cycling.

Also the massive amounts of mispronunciation of names of people they manage to identify cuts through me worse than nails on chalkboard. It’s not even nobodies, Geraint Thomas was being said like Jeraint (Jer like in Jerry) for the tour down under…

Alan February 5, 2013 at 10:15 am

The mispronunciation that drives me nuts is “Boysen Hagen” from Phil – even when Sherwen beside him gets it right – almost like Sherwen is trying to correct the old duffer.

MrTapir February 5, 2013 at 3:34 pm

My favourite from last year’s tour was the pronunciation of Michael Morkov, they went through about 5 different pronunciations in a stage. At one point Sherwen even said ‘and I’ve been reliably informed that his name is actually pronounced ‘Murrkoo”. After which, they both proceeded to forget this and say different things.

Sally Gap February 6, 2013 at 3:25 am

Can’t remember which race it was, but they kept mentioning “Maarten Jangely”. Hopeless.

Bundle February 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Harmon is certainly a million times better than his Spanish Eurosport counterpart, the unbearable Alix. Sean Kelly, on the other hand, is exactly as pleasantly dull as Eduardo Chozas.

CitrusCityCycle February 4, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Grown to appreciate his commentary through online feeds here in Canada: much prefer it to NBC’s commentary. Thanks for the background! Nice to put a face and story to the voice.

jkeltgv February 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm

I think all Sean has going for him is his “name” as a cyclist and I think he is quite lazy about facts, riders and the races themselves. I find Brian Smith far more knowledgeable and better able to read a race and pick the moment something is going to happen. He also knows the current peleton better than anyone. A shame he gets shunted off to the b-list races.

But, as has already been said, anyone is better than Phil & Paul so we are lucky to have someone as good as DH.

simon February 4, 2013 at 5:32 pm

+ 1 on all of that.
Smith gives real insight – and not in a dull droning monotone.

Stephen_M February 5, 2013 at 11:47 am

Indeedy, Brian Smith does a fantastic job.

inopinatus February 6, 2013 at 8:40 am

How could one complain about a man who stoically continues to refer to the “Tour of France” (and often in the same breath, the “classement”).

I tell you what though, Robbie McEwen was in the commentary box for the Tour down Under and he was ace; perhaps the more insightful real-time race analysis I’ve ever heard on TV, delivered with clarity and humour. Stood in a huge contrast to the Phil & Paul winery promotion blather. Man’s a natural.

MTB February 4, 2013 at 4:58 pm

I like the long days when they have hours and hours to fill and talk about everything cycling related. Got a huge list of recommended cycling books one year.

My only quibble is that Sean has a much softer voice and can sometimes be difficult to make out.

Steve Crawford February 5, 2013 at 4:36 am

Agree about Sean’s voice. A combination of soft voice and sometimes strong accent can make him difficult to make out at times. It’s like you have to squint with your ears.

John July 5, 2013 at 4:57 am

I love the way Sean says “da bunch”. Everyone else is saying peleton. :-)

Anonymous July 9, 2013 at 12:59 am

Or, alternatively, “pelothon” :)

Slapshotjc February 4, 2013 at 4:59 pm

There have been times that I have directly questioned the integrity of the commentators handling of doping cases and the relevant comments on riders returns and through Twitter and the rest of the internet it is possible to contact these individuals directly. It also allows you to eat humble pie when necessary as well!!

What is unquestionable is that in, English language terms, the Eurosport guys are the best around. David and Sean are brilliant together, Carlton adds a level of humour at times that lifts what can be dour days. I do like when Brian Smith joins them, another Scottish west coast accent is so easy to listen to. When your only other options are the Lance Armstrong Fan Club in Liggett and Sherwen the ES boys are a godsend.

On the assumption that David will read these comments, I think someone should point out HIS finest hour. The day that Wouter Weylantd so tragically died on the Giro, his commentary held everything together and expertly dealt with a situation few of us could have handled.

Keep up the good work chaps…but please any chance we can have fewer of Carlton’s abysmal jokes on twitter!!

jkeltgv February 4, 2013 at 9:54 pm

The day after on the neutralised stage too. Enough silence and enough information.

Tommy B February 6, 2013 at 11:08 am

+1 for those 2 Giro commentaries…masterclasses in understated commentary.

There’s much to enjoy about ES’s cycling commentary & punditry, & as a relatively new fan of the sport it’s helped me to quickly build my understanding of it.

The Ladder February 4, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Nice interview, big fan of Dave Harmon in the box. Sean cracks me up with his incessant references to ‘making the calculation’ – Kelly Bingo could be interesting, with all the other classics he comes out with.

Joe K. February 5, 2013 at 6:26 am

Yeah, he always makes me laugh with that one: “…makin’ the calculation.” He uses it quite often; someone should count the number of times he uses it during a single race coverage. I wonder if he uses it in casual conversation? “I was checkin’ out the bank balance, and was makin’ the calculation….” (I guess it can be pretty normal too!)

roadiesean February 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I am a Harmon/Kelly convert. A few years ago, I didn’t think anyone could hold a candle to the Liggett/Sherman show, but when I got cable and started to be able to watch all the races through the years, I had little choice but to listen to David and his various co-hosts. To start with, to be honest, I literally couldn’t understand Sean, I mean I know we share a name, but Jeeeezus that was a strong accent ! But I persisted and I absolutely love them together. When Sean is away, no one is even close to as good, I mean Big Maggie is a legend and he does the next best job, but I find Brian Smith as dull as dishwater. Knowledgeable yes, intelligent definitely and he really can read a race, but BORING ! Sean Kelly just cracks me up, so dry yet so incredibly funny and I love the way that Mr Harmon makes pops at the dopers from time to time, again, dry and clever.

I had a crack at Phil and Paul last TdF, but too much Lance bias over the years, too many cliches and tired commentary from the pair just finished them off for me. Dry, dull, boring and proved very, very wrong about the great LA.

Terrific interview BTW.

Arnie Pye February 4, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Maybe David can answer this one that’s been bugging me for a while…..why do we need the sound of the helicopter when they cut to the aerial shots? We know the camera is in the chopper….does the noise of the rotors increase the cool factor or suspense? Baffling…..anyone?

rhys February 4, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I like the faint whirring, it adds to the atmosphere.

Big Mikey February 4, 2013 at 7:20 pm

Nice interview, INRNG.

David Harmon and the Eurosport team are the best English-language team on the planet. He has a special talent to play off whoever is his booth-mate, and bring out the best in the broadcast. A true professional.

He probably doesn’t get enough credit for doing as well with Sean Kelly as he should. I gotta think that Kelly by hemself would just fall asleep……

david February 4, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I think the DH/SK combo just works because they are so different, really looking forward to the coming season.

Lee Hill February 4, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Harmon is the best in the business – I can’t stand ‘cycling for dummies’ on the other channel.

Loved the rant at the producer after Cadel Evans won at the Worlds. He was right too, it was ****ocks that Eurosport cut the program early and missed the podium presentation.

Lee Hill February 4, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Harmon is the best in the business – I can’t stand ‘cycling for dummies’ on the other channel.

Loved the rant at the producer after Cadel Evans won at the Worlds. He was right too, it was b******s that Eurosport cut the program early and missed the podium presentation.

Chrisman February 4, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Sean and his flippin ‘cacurleeshons’….these 2 are like a pair of old friends to me. I did find them annoying, back in ’08 when I started watching. Then I swiftly realised, how ever annoying I found Mr Harmon, he was probably doing an amazing job, since I was listening to him 5 hours a day for 3 weeks on end.

I love how the style is conversational, banter-like even, without ever losing sharpness and focus on the key issues. I love how they begin many a discussion by saying ‘so we were chatting round the dinner table last night’. This is literally a couple of very well-read mates talking about cycling. It helps that Sean is generally acknowledged as not only a great rider, but a really intense and spectacular one too, so he has experience of many scenarios. Yes his analysis can be a bit bland, but his utter dryness makes it worthwhile.

Harmon, on the other hand, is a joy to listen to. He knows when to be serious (the WW memorial stage in the Giro) and knows when to have a joke. I honestly don’t think there is another sportscaster in the UK who has the same knowledge, passion and friendliness. And the fact that he and Sean go out reccying the parcours before the stages – above and beyond chaps, above and beyond.

Without wanting to veer into hyperbole, I really must say that it’s been a pleasure to share your company these last few years David. Karlton Kurby however, I cannot sanction your prescence. You have the broadcasting style of Alan Partridge, wihtou being in the slightest bit funny. He has this awful way of over emphasising every syllable like a terrible 1980s radio 1 DJ. And his little ‘fact pieces’ always get in the way of the cycling, so much so that they usually do away with them at the end of the tour. He’s annoying and has little or no point to him and T think that Harmon and Kelly think the same as Harmon just pays him lip service and Kelly completely ignores him.

Chrisman February 4, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Just to mention the WW memorial stage again, I remember being blown away by Harmon that day. Listening to his commentary made me realise how utterly and completely false most ‘emotion’ on TV is, especially in the world of sport. It could have been totally cliched and embarrassing, but he just shot straight, as always, and it was a thing of macabre beauty. Death, humanity, sacrifice, all in a day’s work. David, you did right by everyone on that day. I remember watching thinking ‘what the hell is he gonna say, this is going to be so awkward’. An incredible piece of broadcasting.

As an aside, due to logistical reasons, I could only watch the first week of the 2012 tour on ITV4. The difference in the quality of commentary was scary. Paul Sherwin sounds like he’s on a computer game, just random, totally unconnected phrases seemingly uttered outside of a racing context. And why oh why do they insist on converting EVERRY measurement to miles and yards? FFS sake you morons, its the tour de FRANCE, let them have their bloody kms!! Who really cares??? Dickheads

Simon February 4, 2013 at 9:12 pm

+1 on that. Also add “traffic circles” . . . The world includes countries other than America!

Dennis February 4, 2013 at 10:56 pm

In my experience, not even Americans call them “traffic circles.”

Mary Topping February 5, 2013 at 12:47 am

Some Americans still call “round-abouts” “traffic circles.” Well, this one does. :)

Jennifer February 5, 2013 at 5:32 pm

I call them roundabouts but have listened to too much non-US tv programming. However, here in DC all 34 of them are circles.

JimW February 6, 2013 at 3:30 am

In Mass. a round-about is a rotary.

Roadslave525 February 4, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Good interview. I like Harmon. A lot. The best example for me was when he wasn’t even commentating: Olympics 2012 men’s road race… Whoever was providing the feed (not BBC, incidentally) were having a shocker… No data on riders or splits to the break, etc. The BBC commentators, Chris Boardman (usually excellent), and Hugh Porter especially, just couldn’t get a grip: “when we find out who the riders are, we’ll let you know… In their national jerseys rather than team jerseys, it’s hard to identify who’s who… ” etc. Quick as you like, Harmon is on twitter telling us who the riders in the break were, and his estimate of the split to the chasing pack. Pure class – and he was doing it from his own sofa in front of his own TV with no telemetry… Old school hard graft. Mint

hippy February 5, 2013 at 12:06 am

Eurosport commentary rules. ITV coverage would do my head in if it was all we had. Keep it up fellas.

The cycling analyst February 5, 2013 at 12:17 am

David and sean are the best there is on cycling commentary now. The phill and paul show is good but david is king of cycling commentary. Eurosport gives the real insight and feel into cycle racing.

Nick February 5, 2013 at 12:58 am

This was really interesting, thanks Inrng. The most interesting part for me was his views on the media’s historical willingness to speak out on in “fraud and duplicity”. I’m somebody who thinks journalists have just as much responsibility to come clean about their roles in doping and omerta as any rider or team manager does. If you stayed silent because you feared for your job, you have a place (and responsibility) to sit at the table of truth.

Alex TC February 5, 2013 at 2:46 am

Nice piece inrng. I first met Sean Kelly in 2010 during the Tour. He was having a pizza at a table right next to us after the stage finish in Luchon. I approached him and he was very friendly. We spoke about his days at RMO with Mauro Ribeiro, the first (and so far only) brazilian rider to win a Tour stage. Kelly is one nice and funny chap for sure!

I do occasional support guest comment at local (Brazil) ESPN during the Giro, Tour and Vuelta and I can attest to the difficulties you mention. Especially in a country with no tradition and deeper knowledge or culture in cycling… But it’s a lot of fun for anyone who’s passionate about cycling, I tell you!

Thankfully audience growing fast and interest is picking up too, and everything has been getting together much better recently, thanks in big part to the support of the public and the ever increasing chemistry between all the professionals involved, which is getting better every year. I believe that’s a very important aspect of any transmission as can be attested by regular spectators anywhere.

Vera February 5, 2013 at 4:03 am

“Whee” so aptly described that decent. I enjoy Harmon’s commentary, and catch it when I can

Cevenol February 5, 2013 at 5:34 am

He’s talking to you Jalabert!

Tovarishch February 5, 2013 at 7:59 am

Had to put up with Sherwen and Ligget during the Tour Down Under, the regular infomercials for South Australia beauty spots turned the whole thing into even more of a joke. I really thought Sky could have done better than that. Harmon on the other hand is gradually earning as much respect as the daddy of all sports commentators, Bill McLaren. Different style but equally professional.

Sam February 5, 2013 at 10:33 am

Who cant enjoy playing Kelly Bingo? when I hear ‘certaintly’ and ‘bonifications’ I know the new season’s truly arrived. As others have highlighted, Harmon’s commentary re WW and the Giro was truly outstanding. And anyone who listened to him in last year’s MSR when Quintero crashed and was lying on the road unmoving for a while…the anguish in Harmon’s voice was unmistakable…

Hussein February 5, 2013 at 11:48 am

Bonifications! My favourite of Sean’s stock phrases.

JS February 5, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Excellent spots. I would add in my personal favourite, when Sean mentions that a rider is ‘going back t0 the caaar’.

Alan February 5, 2013 at 10:30 am

My first exposure to cycling on the TV was back in the 1983/84 era as my fellow Scot Robert Millar burst onto the scene. In those days we got half an hour coverage of the Tour on “World of Sport” on a Saturday. Thanks in part to Millar, we got Channel 4’s daily highlights from 86 onwards (I think).
Phil Liggets commentary back then was excellent (sounding like he was on the other end of a phone) . Initially with Sherwen they were still a good team, but they got markedly worse in the Armstrong era (I suspect they had to start commentating from a dumbed down for the US market point of view). Nowadays they are just cringeworthy and I have to mute when they are the only option.

Harmon is truly excellent, particularly teamed up with Kelly. A vast improvement on the inane ramblings of David Duffield (also used to get the mute treatment from me).
Carlton Kirby, however, should never be let loose in the commentary booth – he’s unbearable, even worse than Phil and Paul.

Thanks for the excellent article Inrng, and thanks David Harmon if you’re reading ;)

bikecellar February 5, 2013 at 10:32 am

+ 1 for the Harmon/Smith team, by coincidence watched 2011 Lombardy via YouTube yesterday AM with the Harmon/Backstedt team (whilst doing long turbo session) Like many I have lost the respect I formally had for Ligget/Sherwen. Another favorite for me is the two gentlemen on Sporza.

torquerulesok February 5, 2013 at 11:13 am

> work has had to be the priority over riding this last year and the extra 12 kilos can illustrate it!

Get a grip – Rule 5!

RooBay February 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

Harmon is awesome. One small thing I love about his commentary is how he talks about bikes and tech aspects of the sport. Most (all?) other commentators almost completely ignore what we cyclists talk endlessly about on club rides, etc. and is such a big part of the sport. Keep that up David.

Phil and Paul are asleep at the wheel. Woeful.

Roberj4 February 5, 2013 at 12:14 pm

A Harmon classic for me was the Worlds Road Race 2009 Mendrisio, the last few K’s which Evans fabulously went on to win. Harmon then finished of with the the ‘Producer rant’ as Eurosport cut the podium feed. Great interview inrng

Ollie February 5, 2013 at 1:22 pm

One thing that has always fascinated me about the Eurosport commentary is the way they switch to a rider speaking in their native language and the commentator is always able to translate it on the fly. Are they all incredible linguists or is there a bit of TV trickery going on? I did spend some time once googling it but couldn’t find a definitive answer.

Toadie February 6, 2013 at 2:43 pm

In all fairness, there’s only that much that a rider will say during an interview. It’s the usual: “I would like to thank my team-mates, they did a terrific job out there” followed by “I had some good sensations during the climb/on the run-in to the finish line” and “I’ll take it day-by-day/I’m not thinking about it, for now I want to celebrate my victory with the team/tomorrow’s a hard stage, we’ll see”. I used to be amazed by how good the sport’s commentators are in this regard, but 300-or-so broadcasts later & three years into Spanish at a university-level I can tell that they tend to follow this pattern & improvise to a certain degree when someone breaks the script (which, in all honesty, happens even to professional translators). On the other hand, Eurosport International has this one amazing journalist on-site during TdF who does pre-race interviews with sports directors and riders all the while switching back & forth between English, Spanish, French & occasionally even German.

Ian February 5, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I personally very much enjoy Dave and sidekicks as for me they strike the right balance of discussion and commentary that can be enjoyed be people with different knowledge of the sport which is a very tricky balance to master. I for one have learnt a lot about the sport through listening to them. I also particularly enjoy them talking through the descents via their experiences of riding them. Looking forward to more of the same this season.

DS February 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm

While M. Harmon and M. Kelly are by very far my favorite commentators I must say that M. Harmon’s tendency of taking sides annoys me.
For example, when Contador was racing in the time his case was pending at the Court of arbitration, you could hear that M. Harmon didn’t like that: his way was almost comical, refusing to name, to acknowledge Contador as much as possible even when the guy was putting a formidable attack during the Giro…
Anyway, despite of that, good job M. Harmon!

(please excuse my english)

Steve February 5, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Harmon is good, and a great spotter true, but Duffield was a commentating legend, like listening to an unfiltered internal dialogue. We will not hear his like again. He’s eighty two this year, which reminds me of the time I visited a little auberge run by a couple called Jean-Paul and- what was his wife called again?. Marie, that’s it, and and if you’ve ever visited this part of France you’ll know that they do the most wonderful things with rabbits (contd. until Paris).

tintinbike February 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm

I miss old Duffield too. First watched on analogue Eurosport – sadly having to give money to Sky at the same time.
The rambling, cosy nature if it made me feel like it was just me and Dave in UK who were watching stages of the 1997 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya on weekday afternoons – mind you it probably was.

Max February 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I must say appart from Wuyts on Sporza. The Harmon/Kelly team is the best out there especially when it comes to picking out riders. I remember during the Vuelta last year him picking out David de la Fuente from his position on the bike. No matter how many times I tried I couldn’t see the distinguishing feature.

baad-booboo February 5, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Does this mean that INRNG is NOT Mr Harmon?

nathang February 6, 2013 at 12:15 am

Sounds like most commentors are well & truly over Phil & Paul.
Luckily I will be in France for the Tour this year so won’t have to put up with their drivel.
So many worn out phrases & incorrect calls. Give us some real information like how fast these guys go uphill, what gear they may be using etc. Lets start a “pro” Matty Keenan campaign & increase his time on the microphone.

Roobay February 6, 2013 at 3:36 am

Another person in the woeful category is Mike Tomalaris from SBS in Australia. Thankfully he has been kept away from the live feed. The very definition of an insight-free zone…and he’s been at it for more than 15 years!!

inopinatus February 6, 2013 at 8:46 am

He deserves credit for moving mountains to facilitate better coverage of cycling in Australia. Not sure he sees himself beyond the anchorman role, perhaps it is unfair to complain about something he doesn’t claim for himself?

Newelly February 6, 2013 at 10:59 am

74 comments and no-one has mentioned my personal favourite Sean Kelly stock phrase which is ‘real good’

Chrisman February 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm

David Duffield never really recovered from his ‘Woodpile’ moment, did he. I still to this day have no idea what he was trying to say on that fateful afternoon.

rhys February 6, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Although I dread the day when Jens Voigt retires, I cannot wait until he starts commentating!

Yvonne February 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm

And I have often resentfully thought when trying to identify something such as riders’ numbers that David and Sean must somehow have a gigantic screen and could therefore see everything. Now I find that they probably live in something resembling a rabbit hutch (but have excellent eyesight)!

Darren February 6, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Watched last years Liege Batogne Liege on youtube…my first exposure to Harmon & Kelly!
Loved Harmon’s passion, especially as iglinsky caught Nibali and dropped him!
Now I have Kelly’s ‘bonifications’ pinging through my head!
Great interview, Inrng!

Neil February 7, 2013 at 1:07 am

David Harmon earned my respect many years ago when he became one of the first commentators to express his opinion about doping on air and didn’t accept those returning from bans without comment.
I also love the fact that he indulges those of us who send him inane comments to his twitter account, reading them out on air (although this summer you could hear a little tension in his voice as he explained yet again how the jerseys work in the TdF).
To my ears, his commentaries are the TMS of the cycling world – you don’t need to see the screen, you can just listen while getting on with something else and feel as if you are there in the middle of the action.

Elgar Vaivars February 7, 2013 at 9:41 pm

When will these two (Sean and David) take over from those other two (Phil and Paul)? They are so stale to my ears. I watch cycling.tv a lot. The commentators on that channel are really good too. Recent riders like Magnussen have more to say than just calling the action on tv and endless “these boys”! Maybe Phil has to cater to noobs and the US market, so it’s not really his problem or his call. On the internet this is not a problem.

Karl M February 9, 2013 at 9:48 am

Listened to Harmon since 2003 when he was in the Tour de France “dungeon” back in Paris producing al the statistics…
He has a wonderfully easy-on-the-ear voice and really knows how to get the best out of Sean Kelly (i.e. his expertise).

ryan February 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I’d love to hear more of Matt Rendell commentating. He’s great, super knowledgeable and funny. Was a nice surprise to have him on Qatar.

Love sean and david as well. carlton was an aquired taste, but i quite like his style now too.

USA guys. So horrible. They are announcing like NFL or something. The guy shouting during the CX nationals made me mute the whole thing.

Dé Hache February 11, 2013 at 9:26 am

I agree with Ryan above about Matt Rendell. He is the most technically and culturally informed out of any of those above already mentioned.

Harmon does an ok job, he should holds his hands up and stop pretending to be a linguist.

Could you imagine a broadcasting team that included Rendell, Bäckstedt, McEwan, Brian Smith for the season?

Tony March 31, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I used to love David Duffield for all the filler informatio about auberge dinner menus and artisanal wines and cheeses, but I came to appreciate how brilliant David Harmon is as time went by. His partnership with Kelly is the best there is. A bike race is only half a race without them. I love the way Sean always manages to get the grammar wrong. As in “If he go now…” and “Nobody want to go on the attack”. My favorite one recently was when he said “It’s a climb that suit the lightweighter guys”. And of course the old perennial, “It all depend on what the tactic is”. The man is just a legend.

desq April 4, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Sorry but even as an Irishman I find Sean Kelly quite incomprehensible. Try listening to his sentences, they do not make sense. Great rider though

Michael Lees April 5, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Hi I like David Harmon commentating easy to listern to and informed.

Brian Smith is hard work too much of everthing, very wearing after a while.
I like Sean Kelly but he needs to articulate.

Phill and Paul the best.

Debb May 14, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Where is David Harmon? He isn’t commentating on the Giro nor the California races. Will he be back for the Tour?

Miss him and Sean Kelly’s bantering. The guy who is commentating with Sean is nowhere near as good, in my opinion. He doesn’t catch the small breakaways and has made a few mistakes which even me, as a armchair rider have caught. And Sean doesn’t seem to talk as much either, which is sad.

dave May 14, 2013 at 10:18 pm

he’s on hiatus, will be back for the TdF.

Dieter July 1, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Sadly, he’s not back for the Tour either. I recently read an interview with him and he says he’s got too much else going on and wants to spend more time with his 6-years-old son after having missed most of the formative years of his 17-years-old son. It’s too bad because I really liked his style and his rapport with Sean Kelly and even though my first language is German, I prefer English Eurosport because of his commentary.

Here’s the interview: http://velovoices.com/2013/04/26/friday-feature-interview-with-eurosports-david-harmon-part-1/

Debb July 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm

So sad that David won’t be commentating on the Tour. However I think Carlton will do a sterling job beside Sean Kelly.

Anonymous July 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm

This is quite weird. Harmon said he WOULD be back for the Tour. And he did commentate on Stage One. Then disappeared for Stage Two. Anyone know what is going on?

The Inner Ring July 1, 2013 at 1:41 pm

He’s got depression and taking a break from work.

Get well soon David.

Anonymous July 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Yes, so I gather from a bit of further research. I mistook Kirkby for Harmon on Stage One.

He will be much missed – I also hope he recovers quickly and completely.

Debb July 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm

I have been lucky enough to talk with DH and he is a genuinely nice chap. I hope he will be back soon even if he can only commentate on the occasional race.

Get well soon, DH.

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