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Phil Liggett: The Voice of Cycling Documentary film review

Updated: Jul 7, 2021

★★★

Directed by: #NickolasBird and #EleanorSharpe

Documentary film review by: Brian Penn

 
Phil Liggett: The Voice of Cycling (2020)

Sports commentators are a unique breed of broadcaster; they can amuse, excite and frustrate in equal measure. The finest purveyors will inform the viewer without intrusion and ensure you don’t notice them too much. Phil Liggett is a master of the craft with his calm and measured delivery; the voice of cycling could be no finer sobriquet for such a highly tuned wordsmith. This documentary gently teases out the man behind the microphone and a wonderfully rich career covering the world’s greatest road races. His life is neatly captured from his beginnings as a cyclist through his transition to journalist and legendary association with the Tour de France. The narrative is interspersed with his lifelong passion for wildlife conservation and ‘helping rhinos’ initiative.


There is no question that a huge debt is owed to Liggett, who helped to popularise cycling and provide the sport with much needed identity. He was one of the first journalists to write whilst still competing as a cyclist. It gave him unique insight as he later became technical director of the Milk Race. His distinctive voice had a gentle Scouse intonation and made him a natural broadcaster. Liggett formed a memorable partnership with former cyclist Paul Sherwen as their commentaries were heard across the world. Key moments in his career are captured including his misguided defence of drugs cheat Lance Armstrong.


However, the film’s real weak spot is the frequent diversion into Liggett’s wildlife conservation activities. He is a primary fundraiser for the protection of rhinos; breath-taking panoramas of South Africa feature prominently and his commitment to the cause is genuinely moving. However, this film was not billed as a wildlife documentary; ostensibly it is the story of Phil Liggett, the voice of cycling. His efforts are to be admired and respected, but I would have preferred this footage to be saved for a separate documentary. Having said that, we have a pleasing account packed with anecdotes of a remarkable life well lived and reassuringly there is more to come.



 

You can buy tickets here - https://uk.demand.film/phil-liggett/

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