THE BALDING BLOKE strode up to our table and thrust a hand at what
could be considered the world's most recognizable voice since Sir
"Phil Liggett? Love your commentary. Glad to meet you." Upon which, the
fan strode off in true Aussie style, that is, before he could possibly
be accused of stalking.
Having cycled chunks of the world at the speed of the Tour de France's
cleanup vehicle, I never paid too much attention to the famous race of
the seriously shaved, much less whoever was doing the professional chin
wagging, as we say downunder. But Phil Liggett owns the same
quirky bike as I do, a Bike Friday, and like a secret masonic amulet
this gave him a reason to ring and do rocket salad with the
Galfromdownunder, well, downunder.
The day before our rendezvous I invested in a local bike courier's
bible called Bike-It!
attempt plot a safe cycle route from Sydney's Eastern Suburbs to
Harbor aquarium, avoiding all confrontation with motorized transport,
and allowing myself ample time to be unfashionably 15 minutes late. In
the end it proved easier to abandon my squiggly scenic route and throw
myself onto the main drag, William Street, like a bowling ball
towards Sydney's towering ten-pin of skyscrapers.
Darling Harbour is a massive, touristy, paved esplanade where bicycles
and anything that rolls rather than loiters are strictly banned. Except
prams, of course. I thought of stuffing a baby in my handlebar bag and
arguing my case if I was stopped. I was looking for someone tall, thin,
grey and balding, trying to remember what Phil looked like from the
Friday ad he so generously agreed to appear in, for nothing more than a
mentioning his authoritative Cyclesport
Near the aquarium was a snarly old codger sitting with a diminutive
woman and I wondered if it was Phil. No.... people who ride bikes
generally don't wear that kind of expression; something about bike
riding makes people lighter and brighter.
I was about to give up when I noticed a not-so-tall, thin, debonair
gent standing directly in front of my bike.
| "I quite like the idea of flat bar road
bikes, much more comfy when 'anging about."
Phil thought I was a Yank, as Aussies affectionately call Americans.
(I'm not sure
why, maybe it rhymes with Hank). With him were of his two good friends:
Simone, famous female voice of Aussie sports like cricket and beach
volleyball, and Jan, a tireless fundraiser for the <a
href="http://www.victorchang.com.au/index.asp">Victor Chang Research
Foundation</a>. For the record, Dr Chang was a pioneering heart
surgeon, his most famous patient was young Fiona Coote, who I
is to this day alive and kicking butt.
"I'm a professional begger" quipped Jan.
I'd told her I'd done a fair bit of professional begging myself,
cajoling Phil and other cycling illuminaries to publicly own up about
the Bike Friday they had stashed in the trunks of their their
Audi TT's, Gulf Stream Jets, houseboats and bicycle-laden garages.
However, these folk seemed proud of their little traveling companion
I never had to get down on both knees. Jan offered to mention
Friday in the Foundation's Easter Newsletter, "anything to promote a
healthy heart." In return I told her I'd mention the <a
and I urge readers to visit this website and consider donating.
"What's your plan while you're here?" I asked, hating it when anyone
asks me that same question.
"Well, I've got work to do do commenary for SBS, ABC, the Tour Down
Under, then visit Margaret Day (leader of the Australian Bike Friday
Club) then over to the States filming for Outdoor Life Network..." said
Phil, or words to that effect. And here was the revelation: I thought
that Phamous Phil's sole livelihood was the Tour de France, and the
of the time he spent in Majorca or somewhere.
"I wish!" said Phil. "I do year-round commentary for cycling, skiing,
And cake-decorating if the need ever arose, I imagine.
"But surely you have to have an intimate knowledge of all about those
sports, the lingo...?" I asked.
"That's right," said Phil, "I usually research a sport extensively
before taking on a commentary job, and if I don't have the time to
adequately prepare I say no to a proposal. You can ruin your reputation
in a day if you say the wrong thing."
" Like oh dear, Marina Navaratilova takes a swing and whacks it over
the fence ...? "
For the first four years of his working life Phil was an accountant,
then abandoned the sedentary life once he started getting paid to
and talk cycling. "I've been freelance ever since." Phil is also
president of the Cycle Touring Club
in the UK, a seriously serious outfit that I consulted extensively for
my maiden bicycle voyage, Land's End to John O'Groats. In this capacity
he revealed he'd recently won an award, coming third place "for doing
the most for the cycling industry."
As we walked to find coffee he commented that he and quite a few of his
cycling mates were warming to flat bar road bikes for recreational
riding. "When you're not racing it's so much more comfortable rather
than leaning over." Alan Scholz, Bike Friday CEO predicted this trend
quite a while ago, leading to further options in Bike Friday's already
voluminous array of choices.
And where, pray tell, was Phil's Bike Friday today?
"A friend in the UK is borrowing it," says Phil. "The truth is,
wherever I go I get fancy $5K carbon fiber bikes given to me to borrow,
so I never really have to bring one."
Thus, Phil is one such person who really doesn't need to have a Bike
Friday. But hey, he's got one.
Copyright 2003 Lynette
All rights reserved