Ned Boulting: 'Neither Ant nor Dec were available so I got the gig'
- Brian Donaldson
- 12 October 2018
The ITV cycling commentator wheels his latest show across the UK and muses over the joie de vivre that is the Tour de France
Ned Boulting has been delivering his opinions and analyses on the Tour de France for over a decade and has also hit the road with successful touring shows of his own. In his new show, he focuses on this summer's Tour de France and here discusses his route into commentating and whether there are enough charismatic individuals in the sport
Your last touring show, Bikeology, was about cycling in general, whereas this one, Tour de Ned, is specifically about the 2018 Tour de France. What's behind that narrowing of your focus?
I talked for the first half of Bikeology about cycling as an everyday activity, and I enjoyed poking fun at the cycling community; in effect I was upsetting people and biting the hand that feeds me. Most people went with it, others thought 'what's he taking about? That's rude!' In the second half, it did focus on my experiences with the Tour de France. What people really do want from an evening of watching me on stage is to bask in the reflective sunshine of July and to relive the race that they viewed from afar.
So what can audiences expect when they come to Tour de Ned?
There will be plenty clips and lots of footage from behind the scenes which brings to life the story for us commentators. I also draw heavily my growing fascination with France where the Tour de France is less a bike race and more a national celebration. I'm going to build in big digressions where the race and the geography throws up tenuous links to this, that and the other. Some stages of the race will be dismissed in seconds, others will be given 20 minutes of attention in their own right. But stage by stage We'll move from Vendée to Brittany to Normandy to the Alps to the Pyrenees and back to Paris.
You rather stumbled into the cycling commentary game, didn't you?
ITV needed someone and they picked me bizarrely. I think neither Ant nor Dec were available so I got the gig. It took me literally years to even begin to crack the code of the Tour de France, bit by bit. What I realised immediately was it had a genuine fascination. As for understanding it, that took years.
Do you think the sport of cycling is graced with its fair share of 'characters'?
Chris Froome is hard to market and I don't think people have warmed to him. I think he's an extraordinary man, though I don't think that comes across in his public image. The two British superstars before him, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish were, and continue to be, complex, intelligent, feisty, funny and aggressive yet totally focussed in their different ways. And they've both won the Sports Personality of the Year award where you have to fight off tennis players, cricketers and footballers: for two cyclists to have done that is a great achievement.
Ned Boulting: Tour de Ned is on tour until Saturday 17 November.