By Bill Roland
Cyclist enthusiasts around the world were saddened when they learned of the sudden death of Paul Sherwen, the popular bike racing commentator. Sherwen, known for his cycling expertise, shared the commentary with Phil Liggett for 33 years. The pair of human cycling encyclopedias announced the Tour de France for the last 26 years. The 62 year-old former professional rider died at home in Uganda, Africa on Sunday December 2.
From 1978-1987 Paul rode in seven Tour de France editions and on two occasions he was the British National champion. Despite his talent on the bike, Paul was better known for his work of explaining the intricacies of cycling. Not only did Paul and Phil have a superior command of the English language, Paul eloquently pronounced and shared history concerning every cathedral or castle the riders sped past during the Tour de France.
Each year Paul studied the tendencies and racing styles of nearly every rider in the Tour de France. In addition, he had clear vision of the upcoming challenges the riders faced whether they were climbing a steep grade in the Alps or faced a stiff wind in the south of France along the Mediterranean Sea.
Upon hearing about his passing, Bonnie Ford, a cyclist writer for ESPN, shared a conversation she had with Paul Sherwen some 15 years ago. “When you’ve ridden the Tour, anything you ever do in your life again is never really difficult,” he told Bonnie. “When I see the guy’s faces, I literally can’t believe I used to do that.”
Despite his reputation Lance Armstrong was an extremely skilled rider; he tweeted the following message, “I am completely shocked and saddened to hear of Paul Sherwen’s passing. I met Paul in 1992 when he worked as our press officer for Team Motorola. He was always a class act and a great friend. My deepest condolences go out to his family. RIP Climber.”
And of course, Paul’s right hand man, Phil Liggett, expressed his thoughts the day after he heard the news. “I went to bed in Africa with a heavy heart last night feeling sadness like never before. My teammate for 33 years was no longer with me. Your hundreds of messages showed how well Paul Sherwen was loved. Let’s think of Katherine and his children with love just now.”
For all of the cyclist reading this publication, and throughout the world for that matter, I have no doubt that everyone will miss him dearly and the upcoming cycling broadcasts will not quite have the enthusiastic flair he contributed so graciously. A favorite expression of his that this writer got a kick out of hearing, was unique as the riders were beginning the final few kilometers of nearly each stage. “This is fantastic Phil, we have over a handful of riders who will make the sprint to the finishing line a race we will never forget.”
Rest in Peace Paul, you made those stages even more enjoyable, all the way to your own finishing line.