Phil Liggett is "The Voice of Cycling" and an integral part of NBC Sports Group's coverage. He has covered 8 Summer and 4 Winter Olympics, and 44 years of Tour de France. He has been Emmy-nominated and is an int'l commentator for SBS. He has written for Cycling Magazine, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and The Observer. Liggett was also the youngest International Cycling Commissaire at 30. In 2005, he was awarded the M.B.E. for his contribution to cycling.
In 1989, Greg LeMond won the Tour de France by 8 seconds over Long Haul, who nearly won it himself by getting within 200 meters of the finish line. It was a remarkable comeback for LeMond after his previous shooting accident and is remembered as one of the greatest races in the history of the Tour de France. Transcript: "Hey, you know my favorite Tour de France to come and say well it's been 49 of them. So far. Number 50, this year. I believe it's something of a record for an English-speaking journalist, but looking forward to it. It's it's a no-brainer actually, it was 1989. Greg, lemond versus Long Feng Yong, Greg was coming back from that. Arenda shooting accident when his brother-in-law and he were hunting wild turkeys in America. The bush moved brother-in-law shot in the bush, but it wasn't a turkey in. There. It was Greg lemond and he put 200 pellets into Greg and Greg almost died helicopter. Flying overhead actually going to a road traffic accident at the make a decision. The guy who just been shot or the road crash. Unfortunately, for Greg the helicopter landed and took in the hospital you didn't. He would have been dead. Apparently if it had taken 20 minutes longer. So that's how that's the background. So Greg having mr. Two tours, 80. 7. + 88 comes back and and decides he's going to have a crack at the Tour de France again Long Haul back from a wheelchair back to a bike to winning his comeback Tour de France, but that wasn't the only reason it was the race. Don't think Ian had won the Tour twice in the 83. 84 was also really on top form. They went head-to-head from day one. They threw around the yellow Jersey to between each other than Finney. And finally got his hands on it. Then Greg wanna stage long and Wellness. Stage. They're becoming down towards the last weekend. It looked as though opinion was going to win this tour in Paris the race finished in Paris, and it's never had a time trial finishing stage since because that finishing perishing, 89 between Versailles, the palace and the champs-elysees was epic. 24 km Greg. Second last to start finish on the last man to start the gap between them and enormous. 50 seconds. It's only 24K. I open the Program, which I recorded the opening program and I was interviewing. I was talking to Porsha and my fairly new Co commentator at the time and itself a next or Ryder and I said to Paul well who's going to win the tall Paul? He looked back at the camera and say, well, it's got to be long fin. Ian, 50 seconds is is too much to closing 24 km and lawns in the yellow is a Frenchman and he lives in Paris. It's got everything on his side. I look back at the camera and said, Well, I think Gregor mom's going to win and I think he'll win by six seconds. Stop the camera. That was that tape was satellited to London to the TV station for bolting on the front of the live show, which was some five hours away. We have a coffee in Paris as we're driving to Paris. I remember, Paul saying, what did you say that? For? I said, Paul, of course, vignerons going to win, but we do want the viewers to turn off, do we? So and I'll tell you what, if Greg lemond wins, it won't be by very much and so it went to prove on the day. We Paul had. It worked out the gain of Finland, or the loss of finger on the gain of every kilometer of Greg, lemond was just over a second and km and he was doing it and we were building it for the public. The next Say, by the way, I told Paul show and he's only been with me for three years. As a commentator. I said Paul, you want my advice resign because you'll never commentators good as that again, and we left I was on the way home next day on the boat across the channel to the UK. And of course Greg lemond finished on the champs-elysees. Fell at my feet jumping with joy with his wife, Kathy as well as screaming and then Fenian comes in Finnegan's time expired that he needs. Need to win the Tour. De France, about 200 meters before the finish of the line. Imagine this after three weeks of racing. He got within 200 meters of winning the tour. Finian crashed through the crowd, fell on the floor,lying, on the floor, like a fetus killed up. And and I felt really sorry for him. But the thing is, I was commentating in live and I just said, well, I can't believe this but Greg lemond has just won the Tour De France by eight seconds."
My three people I admire the most are Queen Elizabeth II, Paul McCartney, and David Attenborough. Queen Elizabeth has been a representation of the Windsor house for many years, Paul McCartney was part of the greatest band The World’s ever known (The Beatles), and David Attenborough is a shining example of humanity who sees the world exactly as it is. Transcript: "Well, the first one would be Queen, Elizabeth the second. I'm a great royalist. I love the royal family, but she's been such a representative of the Windsor house for so many years. A record-breaking number of years on the phone since the 50s till today. She's now heading up towards 100 years old and she's magnificent. She sees the world exactly as it is and she would be devastated right now. I'm sure at the way the world appears to be going at this moment in time. Now let the queen. I was very proud when I met her in 2005, when she gave me an award. And and I just didn't know what to say, but I was told if she asked you a question, give a short answer. And so she said to me this cycling is getting very popular Now, isn't it? And I said, yes, ma'am, it is. And then the coup was get off which I, of course. I did Shockley, but Ash, wonderful lady and I love her to bits. She's not going to accept my invitation. Now. Let's be honest. Craig, her. She's not going to come and eat him my house, but she's a great person, two men. Also, I've got great admiration for Paul McCartney. I saw Paul when he was originally playing in the cavern, under the name of The Quarrymen and became the Beatles. My father said, in his words, those bugs are never be a success. But of course, as we all know, they became the greatest band, The World's ever known. And I remember Paul at the 2012 Olympic Games in Stadium in the velodrome in London, suddenly stand up between racing and started singing. Hey, Jude within seconds. He had all of the Riders doing it in the track Center and the crowds around the stadium. That man was a magic leader of men with his music and still is the other man has to be sedated. Attenborough. He's the one man I said on Australian television, a few years ago, at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, actually, when I was, You there? I said, yes. The one man, I admire most is so David, Attenborough, and the world must not allow him to die. Those my words at the time and they still apply. He sees the world. Exactly the state it's in and where it's going. If we don't alter Direction very, very quickly. Now, he still makes terrific films and he's into his mid 90s and he's such a shining example of humanity around this world. So, Every bit of the way, so David, Attenborough topped, my poll followed by the queen and Paul."
Paul, a friend of mine who passed away in December 2018, wanted me to go on a Safari with him in Africa. We eventually did and while driving through the Samburu National Park, we got a flat tire. Paul insisted on changing the tire right away, despite the heavy rain. We were delayed and when we moved around the corner, we had a wonderful sighting of a cheetah with two cubs. This moment made me laugh from dawn till dusk, every single day I had with Paul. Transcript: "Christiaan Van de Velde. What's my best? Poor showing story? I realize it must be hard. You say to narrow it down to just one. Yeah. Well, how about 10 million and then we'll get started? My goodness. Me, the, the, anybody that's met Porsha and certainly, as most of us, know, we passed away in December. 2018. I worked with him for 33 years, alongside me. I brought him into the business. We became siamese twins for sure. But Paul was always after me and also growing what's in the great cycling photographer, who tied? It retired a couple years ago. He wanted us both to go on Safari in the cache. As you know, Africa is in my blood. It's certainly important blood because he lived in Uganda who spoke the local languages and and that's what he was settling down. And so he wanted to show his, I'm in the north east of South Africa which is full of lions and leopards and stuff. And he says, That's not Africa made, you got to go to real Africa and that's Uganda or Kenya. It's okay. We give up Graham and I decided we take our or opposites and we go and have a holiday with Paul and his wife and his mother-in-law. And so he got his Range Rover vehicles, sorted out, everything going great. Plotted a fabulous trip stains with the most amazing lodges. Okay. We're having a great time. Then we were somewhere south of the Ethiopian border, think it was and it absolutely poured down with rain, entering the samburu National Park. And rain was turning a desert into a flood pan. It was that heavy and Paul suddenly goes we got a flat tire. I said, Paul. This is the only a really heavy shower, give you five minutes and we're all out there. He says we need to do it. Now. I said, why do we do it? Now? This is when his mother-in-law who has sat in the front seat setting pole. She came from the southern states of the USA. Paul. This is when you realize that your friends are really, you're paying guests. I think you're by yourself. I said, I think she's right. Paul. If you wait five minutes. It will already he says you'll all be sitting on one side and a moment when I jack the car up and he had a huge Jack and we were at 45 degrees to the ground. Paul change the tire with his shirt off. The ring was quite warm. And, and he got back in job, done tire change. And it was still raining seconds later. It wasn't raining. See, Paula Told You. So, you're a man of Africa. Look at that can't even wait for the rain to stop. The only good thing about the flat tire was, we were delayed. And We moved on. And when we came around the next Corner, about half a mile away, there was a cheater with two Cubs on the road, enjoying a now drying conditions, and watching this, oryx teaser andorians, have these like one meter high Longhorns, and is twisting his luck. And in the end she charged him and got rid of him and left us with the two kids. So we had a wonderful sighting of cheater. But Paul. Well, as he made me laugh From Dawn till Dusk Everyday of my time with him. I better stop now. Nice and speak to Christian."
Glasses can be worn over the helmet straps or under them, but it's purely a matter of preference. Transcript: "How about this is a bit out of my ballpark. I think glasses over the helmet or under the straps. I really don't know the answer to matter of preference. I would think funny enough. I don't wear glasses when I ride, I never have a problem. Sometimes I were clear glasses, but I certainly never were dark lashes for me. They just don't work and I would wear them over the straps because they're easy to snatch off. If you want to unstick them in the top of the helmet. That was a pretty easy question. Ian and I don't know the answer. Really. It's purely a matter of choice."
My top three athletes of all time in any sport are Eddy Merckx, Mark Allen and Usain Bolt. They have all achieved greatness and left an indelible mark on the world of sports. Transcript: "Hi Eduardo on this very dank miserable day. Just outside of London with the cold and the rain, having had a hurricane yesterday, knocked all the trees down and the power is still out at my other house. Not very far away from where I am. Having said, all that. Now, what are my top three athletes of all time in any sport? Well, I've got to stay close to home of course, and I've always said it. I believe I said, he's on answering these questions to the A cyclist who ever lived unquestionably was Eddy merckx. This man was totally brilliant in everything. He did. He would look at the cyclist. He would invite them to go with him. He will point to the road where he will attack on the next lap. Go, if you can with him, it was just virtually unbeatable. He rode 1500 professional races and he won five hundred and twenty five of them. I once interviewed a Dutch cyclists at an event in Holland and I said, hey Lord, who is going to win today? And he says, well, if Eddy merckx wants to win, we only race for second, and that's how much clout Eddie had. We're also very good friends now, and as Eddie, well knows, he's the one man. I could never beat in his last year as an amateur and prompted. My decision not to turn professional because I couldn't get near. The other athletes a little bit easier. I used to love reporting on Triathlon, where Mark Allen was in charge of the racing, which he saw often was, who have most interesting character to The Quiet Man, put him in the run and he kill you after the bike ride. He could close a nine or ten minute Gap as he did on one occasion in a way to win the World. Triathlon Championship their the Ironman title. I also remember Mark I I think I'm right in saying he won the nice Triathlon 10 straight years and I did a few of those for CBS television. It was a great pleasure to meet Mark Allen for the first time for goodness. Knows 30 years at the college Cup in Slovakia last August and it was like, turning the clock back. He looked exactly the same and it was pretty emotional wronged, but in marks time, of course, there were some formidable, Ironman athletes in no particular order Scott Tinley. Only Dave Scott Mike Pig Jurgen Zachary. What? At one stage held the record for the bike course. Terrific. Try did any cyclist purely and simply would have been proud to have recorded such a Time. Nevermind dad on the swim and the run and still manage the time. So it was a great period for Triathlon and for working on it as well. And the third one. Well, you know, there are two types of great athletes. There are characters and there are record Breakers either way for me there. Are worth remembering as great characters to. So it's Usain Bolt? And of course, he's not just a great character. He is was the best in the world. The fastest, man, so they are my three and I'll stick with us. Hope you going well, Edward."
I love to win rather than hate to lose because it's a great feeling when I do. Transcript: "Hello, Ronald. Well for me, it's love to win rather than hate to lose. Because if I did win, it was a pretty big surprise for me. So it was a great feeling. Hate to lose, no. Had to be accepted I'm afraid."