20 of the most interesting sports guests I’ve interviewed – Phil Liggett

To celebrate nearly 5 years of Legends with Bevo, I’ve put together a list of the 20 most interesting sporting guests that I’ve had on the show so far.

I am yet to put it in order but first up is Phil Liggett, a cycling broadcasting legend who I was extremely fortunate to meet recently.

For each guest I will write an article and then include quotes from the interviews.

Hope you enjoy the article.

For over 50 years now Phil Liggett has been the voice of cycling around the world and so it was an absolute honor to interview Phil on ‘Legends with Bevo’ in 2021.

Last year Liggett achieved a staggering milestone, he commentated his 50th Tour de France. Liggett also commentated at the Olympic Games on 16 occasions and one of Australia’s biggest cycling races, The Tour Down Under, over 20 times.

As I learnt during the chat, the passion for cycling began when Liggett was a teenager and despite his dream of one day becoming a pro cyclist, he soon realised that this wasn’t going to be his path.

Liggett said whilst he tried other sports in his younger years, cycling ended up being the sport that he was good at.

“I remember being 15 and my best friend across the road had a bike and was asking me to come out for a ride with him,” Liggett reflected.

“I couldn’t play cricket, rugby or football and I remember the games master at school telling me that I was useless and to get out of my sight.

“In the end I gave in and bought a bike and I remember the master saying one day we’ll see you in the Tour de France.

“I thought wow, but of course you never thought anything of this.

“His name was Mr Partington and in the end, even though he hated me as a sports person he thought I was good at riding a bike.

“I tried to give it a go but I failed.”

Liggett recalled how his passion turned from being a professional cyclist to becoming a Journalist.

“I became a Journalist because I was writing about the cyclists living in Belgium, the English cyclists, because nobody else was,” Liggett explained.

“And I was getting paid a pittance every Sunday night from Belgium from the railway station.

“I was using the money to just stay in Belgium to continue my quest to be a pro.

“I did get a small pro contract, but I never took it.

“An opportunity to be a Journalist came my way and I took it and I never asked for a job again in my life.”

Phil started as a Journalist and attended various cycling races with his own unique commentary. This led to him going to his first ever Tour De France in 1973, where he was an observer to Dave Saunders.

Whilst Saunders passing away was an absolute tragedy, it opened the door for Liggett to commentate for the Tour De France, and from there he didn’t look back.

His commentary was so incredible that he once commentated a race with no picture in front of him due to torrential weather. Quite simply, he well and truly deserves to be known as the ‘Voice of Cycling’.

A documentary was released in 2021 and it was appropriately called ‘The Voice of Cycling’.

During our chat on Legends with Bevo, Liggett discussed the documentary and how the viewers and fans were given an insight into his and wife Patricia ‘Trish’ Tipper’s love and passion for animal conservation.

Liggett has been married to Tipper, a former British Olympic Speed Skater, for over 50 years. They both worked at the Tour De France, and shared interests in cycling and wildlife conservation. They are particularly passionate about saving rhinos, who are on the verge of extinction due to poachers.

“In 2019, the film crew came across to South Africa, they saw I wasn’t just a cycling guy, there were other passions involved,” Liggett said.

“I do a lot of charity work and conservation work in South Africa, in the opening scene, you will see the little lodge, which is beautiful.

“It’s very wild and we’re in Rhino territory which I found out was a war zone with poachers coming in, armed with AK 47’s and killing the animals.”

Since this time Liggett and his wife have organised charity rides, raising money to help save the rhinos. There are now plans for Adelaide’s Monarto Zoo to remove the rhinos from the poachers in South Africa and to a safer environment where breeding can be supported.

Liggett said he had a love of animals ever since he was a child and his generosity towards helping out with animal conservation has also included regions affected by bushfires in recent times like Kangaroo Island.

“Now I’ve got a little bit of money, I’m able to give it away and I’m able to help people and in conservation, which is what I’m very proud of,” Liggett commented.

“And I tell you, the sanctuary we’re over the moon because they’ve got what we call the golden children. And they are the babies rescued from Kangaroo Island.

“I’m an ambassador for the Cleland Wildlife Sanctuary, which is now a Koala Centre of Excellence.”

Liggett also reflected how despite all the incredible years of covering the Tour De France, Olympic Games, and many other cycling events there has been personal tragedy and hardship and he candidly reflects on losing important people along the way.

Liggett also recalled a tough time when the media around the world accused him of defending convicted drug cheat and world champion cyclist Lance Armstrong.

“There was a time when I was working for American television, our viewing figures were through the roof,” Liggett reflected.

“The guy was an A-class celebrity and I was working with him on gigs to raise money for cancer.

“And they went terrifically well, and as you know, he pulled in $600 million over that period of time.

“But then came the bombshell and when he confessed to taking drugs that showed us the other side of the situation.

“So of course the media were totally convinced I knew exactly what was going on, which was a total lie.

“And so they were taking me down with him at least they thought they were but fortunately, most of my fans virtually all often stayed on my side and supported me.

“And life has gone on too I don’t see Lance now but I’ve got no hard feelings against him.

“Our paths just never cross anymore.”

In terms of where to from here for a man that has achieved so much in his life, Liggett said he wanted to continue to follow his passions.

“There’s always challenges whatever you do, and if you stay in the mix as I am doing, then things happen people want things done and I’m here to do them.

“It’s not so much the money anymore. I want to continue my love for the animal life.

“The work being done at Monarto is exceptional and I will continue to provide all the help I can give, the same with Cleland.

“I will always help out with the birds wherever I go. And the same in Africa of course, because when I have to step off the plane into Africa, the phone starts ringing so there’s always going to be things to do as long as I’m healthy enough to do it.

“And the one thing and the most treasured thing in your life is your health.

“Trish dances three hours every day, and often walks up to eight kilometres every day.

“So, you know, we’re crazy, really, but we want to get the most out of life.

“As Gerry Ryan, the famous entrepreneur in Australia says to me, Phil, life is not a rehearsal.

“And he’s right. So, you make the most of it.”

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Listen to the interview with Phil Liggett

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