Tour de France 2020

PYSO, ep. 70: Commentator Matt Keenan on the thrill of calling races

The Australian TV commentator shares his tricks of the trade for announcing the Tour de France in normal years and what he has been doing remotely in 2020.

This year has posed unique challenges for everyone in pro racing, and TV commentators have not been immune. In this episode of Put Your Socks On, retired pro Matt Keenan talks about his preparation process for calling the Tour de France. In short, a lot of homework is involved.

This year, instead of commentating for ASO in France at the Tour, Keenan is calling the daily action for SBS from his native Australia.

“Commentating remotely, you lose a couple key things about the feel for it,” Keenan says, adding that he misses being able to drive the end of each day’s course and being able to talk with journalists of other nationalities to get the latest news and gossip.

“I like to be able to inform people when I’m commentating about stuff that they can’t find from Dr. Google,” Keenan says. “The upside of commentating from home is I get to see my family each day. Normally I spend maybe five months or so in a hotel bed. So that’s been one of the positives.”

This year Keenan has also been training during the Tour, thanks to the legend Graeme Brown coaching him.

“Graeme said, ‘you’re going to be at home, why don’t let me coach you through the Tour and see if I can get you fitter at the end than what you are at the start?'” Keenan says.

And Keenan breaks down his method of preparation on each of the riders at the Tour.

“I have two start lists,” he says. “I have a start list with a really brief set of stats on every single rider: their age, where they’re from, their height, their weight, couple of key results, how many times they’ve ridden the Tour. So if they appear in the breakaway, I’ve got a really quick reference point on them. And then I’ve got another I list, an extensive database [with all the notes on their background].”

“Then each day during the Tour, I spend about an hour and a half or so going through the book that tells us the details about the churches and all that sort of stuff. And you’ve got no idea how much feedback we get on that. We get more feedback on that than we do on the race.”

Tune into Put Your Socks On to listen to one of the key voices of the Tour de France.