I like David Harman’s commentary for Eurosport. His enthusiasm and excitement in moments of drama, his ability to identify names in the swirling mass of a bunch sprint. I don’t think I could do it.
But that’s not going to prevent me from having a moan about the commentary of yesterday’s 9th stage of the Tour of Spain, in which we heard all about the chances of virtually all the main players bar one – British hope Bradley Wiggins of Sky.
Until the Brit’s white national championship jersey was virtually filling the screen, and it became blindingly obvious he was so in the race as he tore it to shreds in the final kilometres.
What I expected yesterday was for our race commentators, Harman accompanied by Brian Smith standing in for Sean Kelly, to speculate on what Wiggins had to do if he was to have a tilt for a final podium place.
At the days ‘start, Wiggins was lying 20th overall at 1.43 and clearly his basic strategy on stage nine was to lose no time on his rivals, on the eve of the time trial in which he hoped to make his mark.
But we didn’t get any of that discussed.
Instead the speculation was about how Katusha’s race leader Joaquin Rodriguez might hold his lead, about what defending champion Vincenzo Nabali of Liquigas might do, what Michele Scarponi of Lampre might do, interspersed with phews and gasps and trademark Harman groans about the hellish gradient and oh, the suffering.
YES!? And where is Wiggo in your jumbled witterings, I shouted at my screen.
THERE he is, I added, right there in the top 20 as the rest of the field splits to bits. Never mind Nabali, Rodriquez or Scarponi, and what they might or might not do, tell us the British viewers that Wiggo is still there and looking good.
Then Ireland's Dan Martin of Garmin attacked, and he and Nabali flew away in the final kilometres.
So, good stuff from the microphone guys about Martin.
And then, at last, as Sky’s Chris Froome took the front of the fragmenting peloton to give chase with Wiggo on his wheel, the talk is all about Froome’s great effort, and yes, it was great.
But why was he doing this? When a rider is pacing a team-mate like this it’s because that protected team-mate –Wiggins in this case – has ulterior motives.
Was there any speculation as to what they might be?
Only, there’s’ Wiggins on Froome’s wheel. Ooooh, Wiggins is looking really good.
But still nothing about what he had to achieve that day and why. At the very least we knew he had to mark time pending the TT next day. Yet as we watched this astounding display which was killing off Wiggo’s rivals, and Martin and Nabali were pulled back, still not a word about how Wiggo was riding into the bigger picture.
Could it be Wiggins was on the ride of his life, just like he was in the 2009 Tour de France when he finished a magnificent fourth?
Then at last, the commentators woke up to what was happening on their screens, as Froome peeled off and Wiggins hit the front of the Tour of Spain with 1.5 kilometres to the line, leaving the other overall contenders in his wake.
While Martin recovered to sprint past to take a well-deserved victory which moved him up to 12th overall, the pounding Wiggo took fourth place and shot from 20th to 13th overall only one minute off the new overall leader, Rabobank’s Bauke Mollena of the Netherlands.
On paper, Wiggo was now in striking distance of taking the overall lead in the TT. The question then became, had he anything left in the tank after such a fantastic attacking ride?