Paceline Podcast #76

Paceline Podcast #76

The Tour de France is into its final days and Chris Froome looks likely to win. With Fatty away on a job interview, Patrick and Hottie hold down the fort and discuss Froome, Team Sky, (Sir) David Brailsford, journalist hostility and parallels to another episode in history. Patrick even suggests that we stop asking riders if they are doping.

Ha ha ha ha!

Also, is it time to put Phil Liggett out to pasture?

There’s been a fair amount of interesting news on the tech front, though not all of it has been good. In the news: Intel and Recon Jet, Garmin, Specialized and Levi’s Gran Fondo, plus we remember a giant in the industry, Othon Ochsner.



This podcast is supported by Health IQ, a life insurance company that celebrates cyclists and other health conscious people.  Visit to learn more & get a free quote, or check out their life insurance FAQ page to get your questions answered.

The Paceline is also supported by Eliel Cycling. Crafted in California, the Eliel brand combines the latest technology with cycling tradition to deliver an experience that is authentically California. View their retail gear and custom program at


Show links:

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Free entry into Levi’s GranFondo for young riders



Announcer Ned Boulting

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  1. Jillian Hundey

    I read Mark Cavendish’s book At Speed. He talked about how they don’t talk about doping because they don’t know much about it and they don’t want to relive the Lance Armstrong era. I feel you are playing into the witch hunt and beating a dead horse. With all the advances in science I feel that finding dopers would be easier. I love your podcast but stop with the doping witch hunt.

    1. Author

      This isn’t a witch hunt; a witch hunt would be accusing the riders of bank robbery and judging their innocence by seeing if they float in water. Doping has been a part of bike racing for as long as there’s been bike racing. Finding doping now is much more difficult than it was 20 years ago due to microdosing. Also, Floyd Landis had a book in which he said he didn’t dope. That didn’t turn out to be the most accurate portrayal of the era.

  2. Paul

    Agree with Jillian here – I wish journalists would stop with the doping witch hunt and insinuating that Team Sky are dopers because Froome wins the Tour De France.

    Your arguments in the podcast are so full of contradictions – You find it incredulous that without team doping at Sky they can have 3 riders left when the other teams just have the leaders – yet those riders are Froome, Landa (off to be leader at another team next year so will it be okay that he would be there next year) and Michał Kwiatkowski ( ex World Champion – I assume that all World Champions are dopers then?) With the pedigree of those riders it is not a surprise they are still up there riding for Froome. If there is any doping going on, its financial doping – Sky simply have the most money and can pay the best riders to be domestiques for Froome.

    Personally, I take it as I see it and enjoy the race – this year’s TdF has been close and interesting – If it later turns out that Froome cheated to win, I’d be upset at that time, not now.

    I wonder if there are any journalists left who might do some investigative journalism and look for evidence? Most journo’s seem to think they are doing their job by asking Froome et al “Are you doping?” – as if they would crack under the question and admit everything ?

    btw, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen were dropped from commentary in the UK in 2016 (somewhat ironically one of the replacements being David Millar)

    1. Author

      Witch hunt? Hardly. Let’s try not to forget that Sky came up with an entirely implausible scenario for a TUE for a rider, and their excuse for the TUE involved another rider who stepped up and said the excuse wasn’t true. Sky management lied about a TUE.

      Are all World Champions dopers? I wouldn’t say all, but history shows the vast majority have been.

  3. Keith Kenworthy

    I agree it is time for Phil to retire or take a lesser role. I had access to NBC, ITV, SBS & Eurosport broadcasts of this years TDF and primarily chose ITV because I prefer Ned Boulting & David Millar. They are really a solid team and David adds a lot of great insight to Ned’s solid & enthusiastic announcing

  4. RJ

    I listened to the podcast over the weekend, and switched to something else after the tour segment. So many questions.

    You said that you have “questions” about Sky. Sure, we all do and there’s been lots of questionable activity. But in this case, what specifically, do you have questions about? You never said. All the things discussed havent actually broken any rules in the WADA code, however afoul they’ve run of the court of public opinion. You mentioned having all of their riders leading out up a climb – they also have 3x the budget of AG2R or Garmindale-Drapac, so it would be expected to have riders that would be grand tour leaders in other teams and world champions in the mix deep into hard stages, especially when other teams seemed to be content to do the work when the terrain is easier. AG2R pulled the same trick on Stage 19, but were their questions about their squad?

    You also referred to Froome’s competition as minor league (well, AA baseball, specifically). I think that’s poor form and does those teams and riders a disservice – they’re the best in the world in the biggest race in the world. Are you not asking “questions” about why underfunded teams and riders with inconsistent past performances now slugging it out with the “major league” team?

    Now, I’m not a Sky fan or even Sky apologist, and find their PR antics confusing and amusing, at best. The way the team is run is so full of grey areas to leave no room for any logical conclusion other than there’s a fire behind the smoke somewhere. But neither here nor there, RKP isnt in the business of pro tour race reporting.

    My biggest rub is that the whole segment felt like piling on to the bandwagon without adding anything of substance. If you’re going to cover the tour, please go to the race or bring us something unique from in the race, just like you do in your product reviews, rather than lobbing softballs. Otherwise, I would prefer that those segments be left out and stick to things that are core to RKP.

  5. Rohit

    Perhaps it is time for Phil to step down. With respect. Hottie nailed it – we hold our broadcasters in high esteem, and it is always, ALWAYS Phil and Paul’s voice in my head as I “suffer”, “put myself in difficult” and ultimately “crack” no matter what I’m doing. There’s the Specialized ad with the kid being chased by Tom Boonen that I still watch for kicks.

    I grew up in Michigan and broadcasters like Bob Ufer, Bruce Martyn, Ken Kal, Ernie Harwell, and Keith Jackson are the soundtrack of my childhood, as connected to my sports memories as the teams and games themselves.

    Hottie for Tour commentator.

  6. Paul

    re. TUE, yes that specific situation stank and the answer was not good. And it is right to remain sceptical – but it should be of all teams, not just Sky. But equally, I think if you are going to watch and commentate on pro cycling, you must do so with an assuming that if a cycling is doping, he will be caught. If not, you are better off not watching it.

    btw, I’m no Sky fan either (and hate the Murdoch empire), and really wanted either Dan Martin, Porte (that was a ruinous crash), or in particular, Bardet to win this year.

  7. ac

    As you mentioned Phil and Paul HAVE stepped down, well in Australia at least.
    If you read some of the comments on the Australian TV, SBSCyclingCentral facebook page from during the 2017 TdF you’d think it was the end of civilisation, newborns were being sacrificed, and there finally was something waaay worse than a person on bike in front of cars on a local street.
    Apparently US network NBC has had exclusive rights to P&P commentary for the the first part of stages for a number of years now. So Australia has had a local guy, Matt Keenan, covering the commentary up until P&P commentary went to the global English speaking audience later in the stages.
    This year for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to me ASO decided Australia (plus other English-speaking markets, if any?) wouldn’t get P&P at all. So instead our commentary has been by Matt and ex-pro Robbie McEwan (you might have heard of him 🙂 ).
    Matt’s established himself as an international cycling commentator after a short stint in the Euro pro-racing scene around the turn of the millennium. (He puts a good deal of preparation in, and can often ID less well-known riders by sight.)
    Robbie has ‘some’ racing experience under his belt. His eyes and experience on the close-quarters racing has been great.
    Yet the haters gotta hate, and if you pay half an ear to the criticisms you’d think Matt and Robbie were inexperienced, know-nothing, nobodies who wrecked the whole TdF. And the detractors are not afraid to go on. And on. And on about it on the SBS social media channels. As if SBS as the Australian broadcast rights holder can overturn the ASO decision and their various international commercial contracts.
    Me, I’ve missed the iconic tones of P&P just a little, but overall loved the fresh aspect of the new commentary team. They’re both personable guys commentating on the action in an engaging manner.
    (and can read from the scenery notes just as well as P&P did, but actually do a little “better” as they don’t always read it in its entirety. So it sounds less like product placement verbatim from a script. Sorry P&P!)
    Also no suitcases of courage and the like for us this year. Replaced by new gems such as this one that produced a guffaw from me as Bardet attempted to break away up the Col d’Izoard on stage 18,
    … he’s flirting with the red zone. But not taking it out to dinner.
    (We might need new M&R bingo cards to replace the old P&P ones.)

  8. Brandon P Masterman

    A Little late to this as I have been traveling, but I wanted to suggest something else about the “Phil and Paul” situation. First, as usual, I think you guys do a really good job covering the issue. Thanks for that! But, there is one thing that I think gets overlooked when it comes to TdF commentary, the generational divide between viewers/cyclists. While I agree that when Phil starts misrecognizing riders and completely making up teams riding in the tour, it is probably time for him to be moved into a different role than live commentary. And, I also understand that folks of your generation grew up listening to Phil and he holds a special place in cycling media. However, I and a growing number of folks who are die-hard cycling fans and racers don’t have the same relationship with Phil and Paul. And, perhaps more importantly, we are now in our mid-late 30s so we are not “just kids who don’t get it,” if that makes sense. Let me explain.

    While it’s true that folks in their 40s and older grew up listening to Phil and Paul, it’s also true that you grew up in a completely different era of bike racing. One where sponsors where plentiful, riders were often doping, race radios weren’t standard, and team tactics were bit different. Phil made the commentary for this era of bike racing exciting with phrases like “suitcase full of courage” when someone would go off in a break away or whatever. And, at the time, these phrases were poetic and made sense. However, those of us who grew up watching the pro peloton just as Lance rose and fell, Phil’s commentary really never made much sense if you thought about it. It’s more than just his recent and increasingly blatant mistakes identifying riders, etc., it’s that even before that, Phil’s commentary seemed lazy and inaccurate if you knew anything about how cycling works. In the 90s-00s, the “suitcase full of courage” allowing someone to go off on a wild breakaway usually translated to a “bag of doped blood.” And, even after the “bad years,” his phrases just didn’t ring true. After the “Lance era” we entered the “corporate era” (maybe we’ll call it the “Sky era” someday), where everyone knows that more often than not, riders don’t go out in a breakaway to win the stage, they go out to get their sponsors some TV time. Not so much a “suitcase full of courage” as a plea to keep the team’s sponsorship next season. As such, for many of us who have now been watching races and racing bikes for years but don’t remember cycling during most of the 70s and 80s, Phil’s lingo just seems out of date. And, we don’t have the nostalgic connection with Phil when he first began commentating. So, for us, Matt and Robbie’s more honest and sometimes even sarcastic style of commentary is a welcome change from Phil and Paul’s well-worn cliches. We appreciate that they don’t put the riders on a pedestal, but rather analyze the actual race more accurately, and point out poor tactical decisions as well as good ones, discussing them in a more meaningful way than the mythic narrative of superhuman athletes competing for the glory of cycling used by Phil and Paul.

    I certainly don’t want to diminish the career of Phil Liggett, he is a hero of cycling journalism and served as the voice of cycling for so many people. But to be perfectly honest, he reached his peak during a starkly different period in professional cycling, and many of us think he should have been moved out of the commentary booth years ago. Anyway, just a thought. Keep the great podcasts coming!

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