Last Sunday the 2017 Tour de France finished on the Champs Elysee in Paris. It was a short stage and a short commentary day for the TV pundits. Like many cycling fans I spend many an afternoon on the couch watching and listening to the commentators on Eurosport, and had a vision of them doing something similar but at a desk and chatting away as they do so. On Sunday I found out that there is a lot more to it than that.
I travelled from the hotel in an Uber with Sean Kelly and Rob Hatch. Brian Smith and Matt Stephens were in another UBER up ahead whilst Carlton Kirby had left a good while before that. He likes to be in place well ahead of time.
Arriving at a security check 2 blocks back from the Champs we were stopped by the first security detail. Soldiers and Gendarme with sub-machine guns were there in support of the ASO staff security. My day pass would not get me through yet so I told Sean and Rob to go on ahead and I would see them later. They would not hear of it so we walked on a bit further and as more time had passed were able to all gain entry together at the next security check. Every bag was practically emptied as no chances were being taken.
Another security check a few hundred meters later and we arrived in the media compound to be greeted by two Eurosport TV trucks.
On the ground floor of Truck 1 french Eurosport have their studio with hosts Jacky Durand and Richard Virenque. Upstairs there is the Eurosport UK and International deck with an outside balcony where most of the pre and post stage interviews and analysis take place.
Up top there is another deck that is often used for more interviews etc.
Then there is the engineering truck that is like something form NASA with screens, computers and sound decks everywhere.
There are about 30 or 40 full time Eurosport staff onsite working in conjunction with their colleagues back in head office.
And we had not even reached the commentary booths yet. They are a few hundred meters away right next to the finish line.
The lads all had a briefing from the director who tells each commentator when they will be on air and what the plan will be for the day. It is very similar to the team meeting that the cyclists themselves have.
Then for an hour or two before going on air each commentator is researching and planning what they will speak about.
Sean always prefers to have paper and a highlighter.
The stage is broken down into KM sections and Sean was due on from 39km to go all the way to the finish along with Carlton.
On the way to the commentary booths we bumped into Jens Voight who had ran a marathon that morning. His fourth time this tour. That evening Fabien Wegmann was showing us photos that Jens was sending him that morning from all of the Parisien sights whilst still managing a time of 3hrs 50 mins. His legs must not be speaking to him anymore at all.
The Commentary booths are in a long truck with each team from different stations and nations all side by side. Upstairs is the radio commentary area which is more spacious. Rob Hayles was looking very relaxed when we popped up to say hello.
As soon as the stage was over there was more work to be done back at the truck before eventually around 8pm it was time for a beer.
Then it was on to the after Tour Eurosport party on a boat beneath the Eiffel Tower where a very enjoyable time was had by all.
Throughout the day and evening I met all of the commentators, reporters and backroom staff. Sean, Rob, Brian, Matt, Carlton and Jonathan could not have been friendlier. Juan Antonio Flecha was a cool guy, Laura Meseguer was very charming and Greg LeMond was the life and soul of the party. It was fascinating to see the interaction between Sean and Greg. Two fierce competitors who are now incredible friends. There is a bond between cyclists who have raced together, no matter at what level, that leads to lifelong true friendships.
Here are a few photos from the day and thanks to all at Eurosport for having me along: