Paul Sher­wen, pro­fes­sional bi­cy­clist who be­came a voice of Tour de France tele­casts

The Buffalo News - - OBITUARIES - June 7, 1956 – Dec. 2, 2018 By Ian Austen NEW YORK TIMES

Paul Sher­wen, who raced in the Tour de France and then be­came a long­time voice of com­men­tary on that and other ma­jor cy­cling events for the English­s­peak­ing world, died Sun­day at his home in Kam­pala, Uganda. He was 62.

The cause was heart fail­ure, his wife, Katherine Love Sher­wen, said.

For 33 editions of cy­cling’s most fa­mous race, start­ing in 1986, Paul Sher­wen teamed with Phil Liggett to pro­vide live com­men­tary for broad­casts in English-speak­ing coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States. Even ca­sual cy­cling fans knew who “Phil and Paul” were.

With Sher­wen be­hind the wheel, the pair would drive to the fin­ish line of each stage of the three-week race and squeeze into a tiny booth packed with tele­vi­sion mon­i­tors, cam­eras, lights and com­put­ers in­side a two-story trailer. “They are hot and stuffy, com­pact work­ing quar­ters,” Liggett said in a tele­phone in­ter­view from South Africa, where he lives.

While Liggett gen­er­ally called the race, par­tic­u­larly the fi­nal kilo­me­ter, Sher­wen drew on his time as a pro­fes­sional racer and seven-time Tour en­trant to ex­plain cy­cling’s some­times opaque tac­tics to view­ers and other­wise fill air­time dur­ing broad­casts that, for some stages, ran on for as much as six hours.

Part of Sher­wen’s job in­volved gen­tly cor­rect­ing Ligett’s er­rors, like misiden­ti­fy­ing riders on the screen – an in­evitable part of live com­men­tary. And when he­li­copter-mounted cam­eras fix­ated on an­cient build­ings or par­tic­u­larly strik­ing land­scapes, Sher­wen turned into a tour guide, if an oc­ca­sion­ally mis­chievous one. When an im­pres­sive chateau ap­peared on­screen, he would some­times say that King Louis IV had slept in it, whether true or not.

Sher­wen re­tired from racing in 1987 af­ter tak­ing two Bri­tish cham­pion ti­tles, but he re­mained tied to the sport. He be­came man­ager of Raleigh Banana and later served as spokesman for the Amer­i­can team spon­sored by Mo­torola, the first to hire Lance Arm­strong, who be­came a friend.

John Wil­liam Paul Sher­wen was born June 7, 1956, in Widnes, Eng­land, near Liver­pool. His mother, Margaret (McGowan) Sher­wen, was a home­maker; his fa­ther, John, was an in­dus­trial chemist with Im­pe­rial Chem­i­cal In­dus­tries. When Paul was 7, Im­pe­rial Chem­i­cal moved the fam­ily to Uganda, where his fa­ther ran a fer­til­izer fac­tory.

Sher­wen be­came the first of a wave of English-speak­ing riders to fol­low what would be­come a stan­dard ap­pren­tice­ship for turn­ing pro in Europe, join­ing the ama­teur Ath­letic Club de BoulogneBil­lan­court in sub­ur­ban Paris.

Sher­wen showed enough prom­ise that the next sea­son he turned pro­fes­sional, with a team spon­sored by Fiat.

As Sher­wen and the other English speak­ers made their way to the Tour de France, they came to be known as the “For­eign Le­gion.”

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