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The now annual heaping of praise on the Telegraph Cycling Podcast

July 14, 2015
WHERE ARE WE LIONEL? Richard Moore (centre) and Lionel Birnie (right) get the tour of Sir Dave Brailsford's camper van

WHERE ARE WE LIONEL?  Richard Moore (centre) and Lionel Birnie (right) get the tour of Team Sky’s Sir Dave Brailsford’s luxury camper van. Picture by Simon Gill (@simongillphoto)

THIS time last year I noted that the journalists behind the Telegraph Cycling Podcast were the big winners among the media covering the Tour de France.

The show, produced on a shoestring budget by cycling writers Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and Daniel Friebe, was a “triumph of real journalists with great contacts books and the passion and ability to analyse the sport engagingly and sometimes irreverently.”

This year, rather than simply building on that success, they are now rewriting the rules of covering big sporting events for journalists.

With some sponsorship and armed with no more than lap tops, smart phones and decent quality audio recorders, they are producing two podcasts a day and even broadcasting live from the press centre mid-week (tonight at 6pm GMT).

Although their evening round-up of the day’s events is the best of all the podcasts produced, by far the most enjoyable development this year has been their Kilometre O morning offering: a short colour feature of the less heralded corners of the Tour.

Among these have been coverage of the new African riders on the Tour; the team mechanics, perhaps the least talked about heroes of the whole mental event; and a fascinating feature on the role of Seb Piquet and Radio Tour – the Tour’s internal information service.

The best of the Kilometre 0 features was Birnie’s second feature out on the cobble stones of Northern France, where riders race across narrow 100+-year-old pavé roads amid huge crowds. Luckily for Birnie, the rains stayed away this year and his beloved Adidas Gazelle trainers were not ruined by a race motorbike, as happened last year.

Although they have the support of the Daily Telegraph, they are largely a small, autonomous operation, and with the kind of gear that most of us can afford, they are producing coverage of le Tour that many mainstream media companies like the Guardian or the BBC are not.

In one sense, their success is illustrative of the incredible flexibility of podcasting as a tool in producing insightful coverage. They can stand at the back of the press tent with a small audio recorder and microphone and intelligently discuss the day’s events. Thanks to their producers back home in Britain (and presumably Dropbox), get this material edited into a radio package along with the interviews they gather at the end of every stage.

Their work is also genuinely groundbreaking in terms of coverage. They were the first podcast given full accreditation by le Tour last year, obviously because of the three writers more than 30 years collective experience at the race. This year, a number of other podcasts have have popped up as add-ons to the coverage for other organisations.

They are also attempting investigate a sustainable way of making podcasting a viable financial proposition for journalists as opposed to an expensive hobby. For a fiver a year you can become a friend of the podcast and get 11 exclusive episodes only available to subscribers.

It’s worth being a subscriber because, while any mug can make a podcast they don’t get an access all areas tour of Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford’s much discussed luxury motorhome.

To return to the theme of last year’s piece, their collective standing within the professional peloton as among the handful of really trusted and authoritative writers gives them access that the legions of social media warriors would never get in a month of Sundays (in Hell).

Writing as someone whose NUJ card is still in his wallet, I know lots of journalists and we are mostly dull people when a microphone is put in our faces. These lads are great fun, I imagine the craic is good in the Telegraph Cycling Podcast Jaguar as it negotiates the péages and autoroutes of France

Equally, there are a few cycling podcasts, and the majority of those are also dull. The Telegraph Cycling Podcast achieves what everyone else strives for but, with the exception of Ned Boulting and the ITV mob, rarely achieves: it is informative, funny and engaging. It is appointment listening.

Full of the kind of long-running in-jokes that typify this kind of show (and which have inspired a brilliant set of t-shirts), insightful analysis and wild transfer speculation that remains the stock-in-trade of sports journalism, the Telegraph Cycling Podcast is one of the few essential accompaniments to the live TV coverage of le Tour.

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