Tour de France fans will hear from a new-look ITV commentary team in 2016 after the channel confirmed that Ned Boulting and David Millar will take over behind the microphone for the first time.
The duo replace the long-established partnership of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, who have been known to cycling fans in the UK as the voices of the Tour de France going back to the days of Channel 4’s coverage in the late 1980s.
Boulting and Millar have paired up in the commentary box on the majority of ITV’s cycling coverage away from Le Tour over the past 12 months, including the Tour de Yorkshire, Criterium du Dauphine and La Vuelta a Espana.
They will make their Tour de France debuts on Saturday, July 2, for the opening stage of the 2016 race at Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, which kick starts ITV4’s daily live coverage.
It is thought that the main reason behind ITV’s switch is editorial, as the broadcaster has no control over the Liggett/Sherwen commentary feed, as the pair primarily call the race for American network NBC.
ITV’s presenting line-up remains the same however, with Gary Imlach being joined as usual by analyst Chris Boardman, with pair having lead ITV’s presentation team of the Tour de France since the channel started covering the race in 2002.
Replacing Boulting as ITV’s roving reporter will be cycling journalist Daniel Friebe, who will work in tandem with regular reporter Matt Rendell to unearth the best Tour stories as they happen.
The 103rd running of the world’s most stage race will visit Andorra and Switzerland before ending at its traditional home, the Champs-Elysees in Paris, on Sunday, July 24.
It is the seventh time ITV4 has screened daily live coverage of the event, with a total of 70 hours of live action to be shown during this year’s race, along with nightly highlights and live action from the La Course women’s race.
Speaking to the Ridevelo website about the commentary switch, ITV presenter Gary Imlach said: “We’ve not been in charge of our own commentators, so it’s been a nonsense and should’ve been sorted out a while ago.
“Can you imagine in any other sport, in football or anything, not having your own commentators and having to just opt in or out. It’s just a nonsense.
“[Liggett] has to pick up in such a way that it seems emphatic enough to a British audience that he’s beginning commentary, although you notice in fact that he doesn’t say hello, but it’s emphatic enough that it sounds like the start of commentary without sounding so overly emphatic that someone listening in New York would say ‘why’s he just started the bloody commentary again?'”
Liggett and Sherwen will continue to cover the race for US network NBC this year, their 31st year together in the commentary box, with their feed also being taken by Australian and South African broadcasters.
This year’s Tour covers 3,535 kilometres and will visit the Alps and the Pyrenees, as well as the iconic Mont Ventoux in Provence, before finishing in Paris.
Last year’s winner Chris Froome goes into the event as a favourite after winning the Critérium du Dauphiné and sprint specialist Mark Cavendish – the third all-time stage winner at the Tour with 26 wins – reportedly hopes to compete both in France and at Rio in the 2016 Olympic Games.
Alongside terrestrial TV coverage, ITV’s Tour de France website will feature action and exclusive features along with a regular daily Tour podcast, and the @ITVCycling Twitter feed will keep fans up-to-date with the latest developments.
Live coverage of cycling’s showpiece event, which is produced by VSquared for ITV4, will remain on ITV until at least 2019, sharing the rights with Eurosport.