British cycling commentator Phil Liggett will be honoured by one of South Africa’s most loyal sponsors of the sport when the Bestmed Phil Liggett Tribute Ride takes place from November 24 to 26.
Known as the Voice of Cycling, Liggett is expected to join the ride on the final leg of 160km which will end in Hoedspruit where he has a country lodge.
A group of 15 cyclists, made up of professional riders and corporate representatives, will ride 160km each day on a route from Pretoria to Hoedspruit.
The ride was initiated by Bestmed marketing and sales chief Chris Luyt, who wanted to arrange something to pay tribute to the 73-year-old Liggett.
After a discussion in July with ASG Events chief executive Wynand de Villiers they decided on the route from Pretoria to finish in Hoedspruit, where Liggett spends much of the South African summer.
“Chris is a fan of Phil and he wanted to do arrange something to acknowledge his contribution to cycling,” said De Villiers.
Besides representatives from a few companies, members of the ASG-Bestmed women’s and veterans’ teams will join the ride.
Offered a professional contract in 1967 after riding as an amateur, Liggett instead developed a career in journalism which has seen him become the world’s premier cycling commentator.
Reacting to Bestmed’s idea to pay tribute to him, Liggett, who has been visiting South Africa on a regular basis since 1990, said it was a “bit of a shock really, but an honour indeed”.
Normally a keen cyclist who annually clocks up more than 3 000km a year, Liggett said he had not been as active this year due to travel commitments.
“I’m way behind my usual kilometres so I will ride this week, but I suspect not a lot. The will is there, but the training is not!”
He started visiting South Africa 26 years ago when he was invited to the Cape Town Cycle Tour.
“I fell in love with Africa then and lived in Gordon’s Bay for more than 10 years before buying a property in the Lowveld.”
Saying he was humbled by Bestmed’s gesture, Liggett praised the company for their contribution to South African cycling.
“Bestmed have been tremendous backers of the sport in this country and I have had a great pleasure, as a TV commentator, to talk about this progress.
“The company should give itself a big pat on the back for helping cycling progress so far in South Africa.”
He said it had been wonderful to track the growth of cycling in the country.
“I have seen the sport grow from 15 000 in the Cape Town Cycle Tour to 40 000 every March.
“The evolution of a World Tour team in Dimension Data, plus a big growth in mountain biking and women’s racing, have all put the sport here on the international map.
“I have had the pleasure of commentating on most of the big events and always feel an inner satisfaction when a South African rider does well.”
Liggett said he was called the Voice of Cycling by an Australian reporter in New Zealand in 1990.
“It went around the world like wildfire and stuck. It is a more than flattering reference.”