Phil Liggett’s ‘Things you might not know about covering the Tour de France’

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For 50 years, Phil Liggett’s coverage of the Tour de France has become synonymous with the event itself. 

Liggett began covering the Tour de France in 1973 and started calling the race on television in 1978. By the end of this year’s competition, he will have covered over 114,500 miles of racing on the Tour de France – the equivalent of making more than four-and-a-half trips around the Earth.

And as with most experienced travelers, Liggett learned a thing or two along the way. Fortunately, he decided to share his knowledge with the rest of us.

The race within the race

“To keep up with the Tour de France, which is about 2,100 miles over three weeks, the TV commentators drive approximately 3,500 miles around the race route, often reaching their hotels at midnight, but ready to call the race from the finishing line the next day.

“In the early days, I started just half a mile ahead of the riders in a group of maybe 500 cars. Before the finish, I had to gain three hours on the riders and jump into the commentary box to pick up the action to the finish line. It was a dangerous existence and I was the happiest guy on TV when the system changed because of the extended coverage of the event due to its popularity. We now travel to the next finish in the evenings.”

Most memorable moments

“During my 50 years, I have been lucky enough to call every English-speaking rider ever to win the Tour de France and also every one of the 34 stage victories of Britain’s Mark Cavendish, which equaled the record of the great Belgian Eddy Merckx in 2021.

“When Greg LeMond became the first (and only) winner of the Tour in 1986, he had to sit with me on top of an open bus waiting for a satellite live cross at midnight into the States. He was amazingly tolerant as all he really wanted to do was celebrate his victory with the team, who had booked a boat on the Seine and were ready to party.”

Changing of the times

“When the Colombian journalists (TV and radio) came to the Tour for the first time in the mid-80s, they produced their radio programmes from the roadside telephone boxes and had their pockets full of French francs to pump into the telephones (no mobile phones, of course) to run a half-hour live show into Bogotá.

“Throughout the ‘70s, walking into the press room, where up to a thousand journalists were banging out the stories on typewriters, was deafening. And, finding a seat through the smoke of so many cigarettes was perhaps not the healthiest existence either. No mobile phones, so always a rush to the telephone operators and then a wait of up to two hours to get your collect call through to the UK or the States.

As the race became more popular and television was producing non-stop live coverage lasting up to six hours, we had to request that the organizers move the toilets to within a one-minute walk from the commentary positions, so a quick visit was possible during the commercial breaks. They still do this now.”

NBC Sports will present three weeks of wall-to-wall live and encore coverage of the 109th Tour de France on Peacock and USA Network. Daily live coverage of the Tour de France, featuring all 21 stages, begins Friday, July 1, at 9:30 a.m. ET on Peacock and USA Network with the Tour de France Pre-Race Show, followed by Stage 1 at 10 a.m. ET on Peacock and USA Network.  

Peacock will provide live streaming coverage of every stage of the 2022 Tour de France, featuring live, start-to-finish coverage of every stage. Peacock’s coverage includes simulstreams from USA Network and NBC shows, as well as commentary from the world feed. Peacock will also feature full-stage replays, highlights, stage recaps and rider interviews.

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde
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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

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Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

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