Paul Sherwen

Paul Sherwen

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Paul Sherwen is generally seen as Phil Liggett’s counter-point, dutifully keeping the iconic duo’s race commentary on course, helping to convey to the English-speaking world the sport of Professional Cycling. Liggett, of course, has undeniably helped shape this great sport  for Anglophones across the globe, having been the English voice of this sport since before I was born – and for that I’m eternally grateful to him; merely the sound of his voice warms the cockles of my cold, black heart. But as much as he is inextricably bound to the sport, the last time he got a fact right must have also been before I was born, if he ever has.

The balance Liggett’s special breed of factual rigor is Paul Sherwen. Not only does he have the insight of an ex-pro with which to season his commentary, he has several other highly technical analytical tools at his disposal, such as actually watching the race. Furthermore, Paul is able to counter Uncle Phil’s constitution under pressure – which resembles that of a knock-kneed Rhode Island Red in a washing machine on a delicates/knits cycle – with his Sprinter’s Cool. Whereas Phil can be heard squawking and clucking incomprehensibly with excitement as a race unfolds, Paul peppers the commentary with self-deprecating jokes about his own career and adds a Swahili proverb or two that might be helpful for the riders, were they only able to hear him.

In this current role of his, as the commentary equivalent of Autocorrect on Liggett’s iPhone, it is easy to forget that Paul was among the most respected riders of his day. Seen here stringing out a bunch (in complete Rule Compliance, I might add) reminds me of the various tales of tenacity that earned him the respect not only of his fellow riders, but of race organizers.

One such example is of the 1985 Tour de France when Sherwen, a domestique with no chance at the overall, crashed in the opening kilometers of a Pyrenean stage and was left to fend for himself while Bernard Hinault raced for the win at the front, making small children of grown men. Refusing to give up, Sherwen limped through the stage alone, accompanied only by a single Gendarme’s motorcycle. More than an hour after the stage winner and well outside the time limit, he finished the stage. The race jury, moved by his resolve to finish the stage, reinstated him and allowed him to continue on in the Tour. In a word, respect.

I think of all the people in the cycling world I most admire, it has to be Paul Sherwen.

// Nostalgia // Racing // The Hardmen // The Rules

  1. @roadslave

    I started when I was 14. I had a school friend who was into bikes, and he sparked my interest.
    I bought my first bike and recall just taking it apart every weekend because I loved the mechanics and beautiful simplicity of it. The first bike was a cheap Raleigh but with black frame and gold painted lines around the lugs.
    In between all of the tinkering of course was the riding. I just loved riding. I soon realised that the Raleigh just wasn't good enough, so I bought a VeloSport with Shimano 600 Groupset. It was better. But fool me bought a 56 when I really needed a 50. More riding ensued.
    I then discovered that there was a local touring club that held 15 k time trial every Tuesday night not 5k
    from my house. I was soon hooked by the endorphin rush and the idea that it felt GOOD to make yourself suffer.
    Soon after, a fine gentleman by the name of Cooper came along with the idea that he should start up a cycle racing team that would include anyone in the region interested. Soon we had kit, then soon after that I did my first race as a junior.
    The Colnago soon followed (54(idiot, but getting closer), then the custom built Marinoni (52, duh(all bikes had Super Record by this stage).
    By now I moved to the big smoke for University and joined another team, where I finally ended up on my beautiful 50cm PDM Concorde.
    Raced on that for a few years till I got to Senior II and had my ass handed to me in a stage race by the guys in the 7-11 domestic team amongst others.
    Got disillusioned and gave it up for 10 years. Convinced myself I was still fit ( self delusion).
    Started back on a mountain bike 10 years ago, and have rediscovered my love for suffering.

  2. @mouse, @minion, @rob, @frank, @michael liddy – thanks for posts, and for comments. Great to read, and all inspiring. Big chapeau to @JIPM for raising the most excellent question in the first place… one of those moments that makes you stand back and look at the bigger picture. On an awesomeness scale of 1 to 10, I think Jeff is a 32 right about now. Thanks

  3. I had to wade in a ways to find a post that said: well done, frank.

    Sad.

    Nicely written, frank!

    Oh! and…Rapha…don’t dis it until you’ve worn it.

    Now, boyz, go to bed and stare at the pics of Pantani which you have pasted to your ceilings.

  4. Wait, San Antonio is the 7th largest conurbation in the U.S.?! Hmm, I know TX has a bunch of big arse cities, but didn’t realize San An was that high up.

    Lots of great stories here. I never really made a conscious decision to become a Velominatus; it was a slow accretion of Reverence & Awe & Respect in my bones. A mtn. bike ridden to work, then a used Cannondale, and then it just kept going. Another sport dominated my life from age 8-22. Post-college was a bit lost for a few years. Now I cannot delineate myself & cycling. It’s great & I love it. I’m intimately connected to nature, the weather, the seasons, sunrise and sunset, the patterns of daily life. Cycling is always there for me, provide some structure, some release, some exercise, and a metric tonne of awesomeness.

    minion – My first true road bike was a mango colored Cannondale with 105. Too big for me, rode the heck out of it from 2003-2009. Aboard that bike I was transformed.

    The Badger’s pose in that photo is stunning. Like a damn rock. “I am not moving, I am not pleased.” Yeah, waking him up at 5am is NOT a job I’d want to have on my list of duties.

  5. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    @wiscot

    @JimYup, two stages in one day. I don’t think it’s been tried in the Tour since. I know the Criterium international has done it/does do it, but in the tour no. I certainly wouldn’t like to be the one to wake M. Hinault up at 5am to get ready for two stages . . .

    It was also done in ’86. Alex Steida took the yellow in the morning stage and lost it that afternoon in the TTT. But he was the first North American in yellow, at least for a few hours.

    Alex is still the man in my neck of the woods – as far as cycling royalty we don’t have much in the Edmonton area, but we have Alex. When it come to the velodrome we have a few more, but everyone knows when Alex shows up to watch a sprint or points race!

  6. @Dan_R
    I still remember watching him on CBS in ’86. He looked cooked after the morning stage and pretty much admitted it before the afternoon’s TTT. Then the Slurpees took to the streets and showed how much they needed to practice TTT. I think Heiden fell over in a corner. I really liked Steida. He seemed like one of the good guys.

  7. @Dan_R
    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    Yep, he was one of the good guys, though he was one of the guys who handed me my ass in my last ever stage race I referred to in my story above.
    Hey, if you ever need someone to give you a reality check as to whether you would ever make it as a professional cyclist, it might as well be someone who wore the maillot jaune, at least for a half day.

  8. Sweet! Getting served by one of the 7-11 greats!

  9. Does riding with a cracked rib,put one on the path to be a hardman?

  10. @sequipa

    It may. However seeking hardman recognition for ones own self is an automatic demerit.

  11. @scaler911

    Velominati need not advertise, it is beneath a true hardman … but perhapes a special seal could be offered to Velominati approved products .. the “V-Cog” .. placed around much like the Mason’s did with the Compass and Square, it would help those less enlightened find their way ..

  12. @toomanytreks

    I read this comment and went on the interwebProwl with suitable V rigour, and you are right it certainly does not appear to be mentioned anywhere. I did however find a great website which seems to contain a large list of cycling movies old and new as well as link to other websites that go back even further.

    One movie of special mention for those not willing to delve into the list was this:

    Hugo’s Magic Pump (1970’s)

    Hugo is the best 6 day racer in Italy, beating everyone, incuding the Mafia’s ‘fixed’ riders. To stop losing gambling monies, the Mafia decides to wear Hugo down by throwing beautiful women at him, hoping to reduce his endurance and stamina.

    Cycloporn 1970’s Italian style

    I did find mention of a book though, published in the same year with the same name as the documentary you mentioned.

  13. @huffalotpuffalot

    Those useful links by the way for the cycling movies are here and here

  14. what about wayne randle for a hardman-most americans wont have heard of him but anyone who can crash heavily on the decent of the bulc y groes into barbed wire during the milk race/tour of britain and still finish cut to ribbons twenty odd years before jonny hoogerland has to be truly worth the title “ardman”

  15. Paul Sherwen. In a word, respect.

  16. @mxlmax

    Paul Sherwen. In a word, respect.

    Nice bump, enjoyed this article and comments thank you.

  17. @frank

    @roadslave
    Amazing, awesome. In some ways, I wish I could remember the day for me. I started cycling to help stay fit for my focus at the time, Nordic Skiing. I was quite good, too – planned my whole life around it – training for the Olympics and all that. There wasn’t a question in my mind that I would win a Gold Medal in the 50k. Since I was 8 years old, I had been training for that.

    Then, one day – and I remember exactly where I was, walking up the hill to my parent’s house – I realized it was Fall and I would be hanging up my bike to start skiing again soon. And I felt sad about it. That was the day I realized I was a cyclist, not a skier. And bit by bit, all that focus on skiing just faded away.

    Never went to the Olympics, never was nearly as good at cycling as I was at skiing, but I loved it so much more. That’s passion. It has nothing to do with how good you’re actually at something; it has to do with how much you love it. That’s the point that all the douchenozzles who read The Rules and then tell us to fuck off are missing.

    Passion and competency are totally unrelated.

    Sometimes, you just need to know that you are freaking brilliant. “Passion and competency are totally unrelated.”

  18. How times have changed: Sherwen gets in an hour outside the limit and is allowed to continue. Ted King? Seven seconds and he’s out. For shame, Monsieur Proudhomme, for shame.

  19. @wiscot

    How times have changed: Sherwen gets in an hour outside the limit and is allowed to continue. Ted King? Seven seconds and he’s out. For shame, Monsieur Proudhomme, for shame.

    Phil & Paul have put some considerable rubbish on the technical officials during todays commentary for this and other technical fines (Tony Martin) handed out in Nice.  Good to hear them calling it as it is with conviction.

  20. I’ve never met Ted King, but I like the dude a whole bunch. Was thrilled last week he made the team, was crushed yesterday he was cut.

    Chin up, Ted! You’re a hardman no matter what! (and I know you’re injured.)

  21. @PT

    @wiscot

    How times have changed: Sherwen gets in an hour outside the limit and is allowed to continue. Ted King? Seven seconds and he’s out. For shame, Monsieur Proudhomme, for shame.

    Phil & Paul have put some considerable rubbish on the technical officials during todays commentary for this and other technical fines (Tony Martin) handed out in Nice. Good to hear them calling it as it is with conviction.

    Yeah, I know rules are rules and that exceptions set precedents, but this wasn’t a case of an uninjured rider not making the cut on a mountain stage by a few minutes mid race, this was a rider whose injuries can be directly related to chaos caused by race organizers (or the Orica bus, take your pick) on the opening stage. He was clearly injured and still rode. It was seven fucking seconds. Not seven minutes. After the bus SNAFU, you’d have thought ASO would be looking for a good story that could be spun in a way that makes the tour look good and honors the event. Christ, I’m not a PR man, but I can see a great press strategy here that makes everyone look good, but instead ASO fuck it up. Was Pat McQuaid involved?  or was he too busy getting his panties in a twist over the rainbow stripes on Tony Martin’s TT bike?

  22. I’m of two minds on this one – yeah, its only 7 seconds and yes he was injured in the crash in Stage 1, but so were a lot of others and they didn’t miss to time cut.  That said, I’d be willing to bet that if he was a French rider or riding for a French team, we would have seen a different decision by the organizers.  I like Ted King and feel for him, but as long as the officials are consistent with the application of the rules going forward, I’m ok with the decision.

  23. If it was Tommy V, different outcome???

  24. Hello. today I heard Paul Sherwen (an excellent and informative commentator) talk of the the Pas de Calais. He said that “pas” means stop, and didn’t see how Calais got this appendage. In fact, “pas” also means “step”. In this instance the Pas de Calais refers to the Calais Step. I think it means a geographical reference of Calais. Anyone else got anything to add? Regards, Mac1937

  25. @Mac1937 To your assertion that he is an excellent and informative commentator I can only note with regret the absence of emoticons on this site, as words fail me.

    On Pas de Calais, like English not every word that sounds the same means the same and some words depend on context. I’m in no way a French expert but I understand Pas also means pass, or in this case strait. On the other side of the Channel are the Straits of Dover, so it’s the same, Strait of Calais.

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