• Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen at the recent Amgen Tour of California. (Getty)Source: Getty
For the first time in his long association with SBS Phil Liggett will appear as a guest during the 2017 coverage of Tour de France.
Michael Tomalaris

Cycling Central
15 Jun 2017 - 1:47 PM  UPDATED 15 Jun 2017 - 1:58 PM

SBS will be entering a new era with Matthew Keenan and Robbie McEwen fronting the global English commentary for the Tour de France.

An all-Australian pair, largely developed by SBS will be calling the race from start to finish for some 50 countries worldwide, hopefully long into the future.

It was not an easy decision coming from the powers-that-be. We have been closely listening to your feedback and understand your passion for Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen in their longstanding role as the "voices of cycling".

It's a huge moment and I acknowledge and support the change brought on SBS by Tour de France organisers ASO.

It’s Australia’s year at the 2017 Tour de France, this July on SBS
SBS in July is all about the Tour de France, as Australia tunes into the spectacle that is the world’s biggest cycling race, and our best chance in recent years at an Aussie sweeping one of Europe’s most prestigious sporting events.

Along with his wingman Paul, Phil is a broadcast icon whose popularity extends far beyond the cycling-specific audience.

His knowledge and understanding of European sport extends beyond its history, culture, cuisine and geography and considered second-to-none.

Phil has been in our lounge rooms since his elegant presentation was first heard and seen on Australian television in 1988, attributes which made him a personal role model and benchmark for many other aspiring media broadcasters.

The Tour de France is more than just a three-week bike race. We at SBS have always seen it as a televised cultural experience and the network's loyal advertisers and sponsors, like ŠKODA, also feel the same way.

We don't take momentous decisions like this lightly and there has been much internal debate and angst here at SBS about this, and although Phil won't feature prominently this year, we should acknowledge that the great man has done much to educate Australians in the complex intricacies of the sport.

He has left an indelible legacy on cycling, but that said, won't be totally lost to the SBS coverage in July. He remains an integral part of the SBS cycling heritage and will still be seen and heard on a regular basis during our broadcasts, just not race commentary.

Just as Richie Benaud took a back seat during his twilight years from Nine's cricket coverage and Murray Walker's role as an international Formula One commentator was scaled back, Phil will play a similar role.

So, there are some big shoes to fill for us as creatures of habit often resistant to change, and that's where the commentary combination of Matt Keenan and Robbie McEwen come in.

Matt is a true cycling geek with encyclopedic knowledge and Robbie brings the kind of insight you can only gain through 12 Tour de France stage wins and three Green jerseys during his long WorldTour career.

Both are brimming with knowledge, experience and energy. After working alongside both Matt and Robbie, I'm certain they will ultimately make a smooth, subtle and successful transition with little fuss.

So let's use the opportunity to thank and be grateful for Phil's contribution and the way he has educated cycling audiences for so many decades.

We encourage you to jump on board and continue to follow and adore the world's most incredible, most amazing live television spectacle.

Let's wish them and everyone involved well as we embark on this new era for cycling. Vive le Tour!