Behind the scenes with the ITV Cycling
You kick off your shoes, settle down on the sofa and like clockwork turn on the television to tune into the day's race highlights. Each day you have avoided social media, dodged Steve in the office chatting about the stage winning ride and made it to 7pm still with no idea who was the day's victor. Thought it was tough to get to that point? Try having to work to this deadline each day to get a grand tour stage condensed into an hour slot. We joined ITV Cycling and the Vuelta a Espana commentary team to find out how they get a programme to air each day and to learn more about the people behind the production.
Grand tours are a gruelling three-week adventure and not just for the riders. Entering the final week of the 2018 Vuelta a Espana, with the winner still far from decided the seventeenth stage, a mountainous one at that, would play a pivotal part in the story of the race. Far from the sun-drenched Spanish mountain ranges and tucked away in a corner of Ealing Studios in South West London, a team were preparing themselves for a showdown on the slopes.
We were welcomed into the ITV Cycling studio by Carolyn Viccari, managing director of Vsquared TV, the production company enlisted with getting the highlights show to air each day. Carolyn took us into her office and introduced us to Ned Boulting who was busy beavering away on his laptop.
Although the race was hours away the team were already busy preparing, making notes on the stage and checking feeds. A race book lay open and Ned, part of the commentary team, was studying the profile of the stage. We were invited to join Gary Imlach, a vastly experienced journalist and reporter, who has worked for the likes of the BBC and Channel Four, to watch the highlights show introduction being filmed.
A compact, sound-proofed studio, just next door to the office, was the setting for the recording. Immaculately dressed with cycling memorabilia, Vuelta graphics and rigged with a range of cutting-edge recording equipment, Gary took his seat, attached his microphone and picked up his script.
A consummate professional, Gary rehearsed his lines, expertly worked his way through a series of tricky Spanish place names and got the intro nailed. It was time to head back to the editing suite, back to the notes and back to watching the stage unfold.
Cycling is a waiting game, with sometimes race feeds not going live until 2pm. Today was an exception at the screens were alive with Spanish TV footage. A unique aspect to the race and one that is rarely seen by the viewer. We watched as the traditional regional dancers strutted their stuff, while the peloton watched on, ready for the flag to drop and the racing to start.
A broadcaster who fell in love with cycling 16 years ago, Ned Boulting began his cycling journey, providing punditry, pre and post stage. As his knowledge developed he moved from being on the ground to be a staple part of the commentary team. David Millar's counterpart, Ned sees his role as that of a storyteller, entrusted with guiding the viewer through the race. We sat down with Ned to learn more about the man behind the mic.
Two highly experienced broadcasters, both Gary and Ned have, over the years, learnt the ropes and thrown themselves into the world of cycling. Although not coming from a cycling background, the men have, with the help of others, become well versed in the sometimes peculiar world of professional cycling.
Complementing this dynamic duo is one of Britain's best-known cyclists, David Millar. Relatively new to the world of commentary, Millar has brought a wealth of knowledge to the coverage, both live at races such as the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire, as well as on highlights shows such as the Dauphine and Vuelta. With over 15 years racing at the top end of the sport, David is able to provide an insider's perspective on the race, reading the dynamics and in turn providing the viewer with a truly brilliant insight into the workings of a bike race.
From local BBC broadcasts to covering the American football scene, Gary Imlach took his first steps into the cycling world at the 1990 Tour de France. The local attractions expert, Gary was entrusted with showing the viewer the key tourist spots along the route. There was a limit to how many twelfth century cathedrals you can talk about and soon he had made the switch to presenting the shows themselves. Starting out with Channel Four, making the shift over to ITV and now taking the helm for the channel's cycling coverage, we were intrigued to find out more about what cycling and working in the sport means to the author, journalist and broadcaster.
We'd met the personalities in front of the camera, now it was time to discover what goes on behind the scenes. A tight-knit team, ITV Cycling are spread over half a dozen rooms. From technicians, busy checking feeds and the technical elements of working with a live cycling event to editors cutting together opening credits and producers readying footage in the gallery, this well-oiled machine are working to tight deadlines, as we found out when we spoke to producer, James.
With the riders rolling out of Getxo for the 157-kilometre stage to Balcón de Bizkaia, we left the team to watch the stage, pick out key moments and prepare to commentate on the juiciest parts of the race. With turnaround times for getting the highlights show live, sometimes coming down to minutes this was no lazy Wednesday afternoon in front of the television.
After seeing what goes into producing the Vuelta a Espana highlights show and the work needed to get all the elements live, ready for the public to catch up with the day's events, we now have a new found admiration for the work these guys do. We would like to say a big thank you to ITV Cycling, V Squared TV Ltd, David Millar, Gary Imlach and Ned Boulting for letting us go behind the scenes on race day.