Home » Carlton Kirby: The Celebrity Commentator Speaks On The Nature Of Cycling Broadcasts

Carlton Kirby: The Celebrity Commentator Speaks On The Nature Of Cycling Broadcasts

Carlton Kirby: The Celebrity Commentator Speaks On The Nature Of Cycling Broadcasts

The schedule and time duration works differently for every sport. A football match lasts for hardly ninety minutes, a rugby match is over in eighty minutes, whilst a basketball game takes only thirty-eight minutes to finish.

Astonishingly though, a single stage of Tour de France lasts for about more than six hours. Hence, To be qualified to fill up that huge amount of time is, quite naturally, a daunting job. And that’s where comes the utterly significant role of the commentator who not only has to fill the huge time span but needs to stay alert at all times.

Like in any other sports, being a commentator for a cycling broadcast has its own perks & lows. Carlton Kirby, one of the successful names in the industry, recently had been a topic of gossip for good and bad reasons. And we have managed to cover his view on it.

His View On Impediments:

Always the hardest and challenging role in such types of games is of a commentator. As is seen in most cases, the primary action of any game takes place during the outset and ending parts. The rest is very monotonous and quite naturally the onus of filling that gap falls on the commentator.

“Commentating on cycling is not like snooker or tennis,” says Carlton Kirby, a principal commentator for Eurosport’s cycling coverage, who has worked in the sport since 1996.

“There are some other sports, like cycling, where the commentary has to be complete. There are no gaps – you might shut up for five seconds or so to listen to the crowd, but that’s it.”

Various types of distractions are always ready for a commentator. From dealing with the never-ending frenzy of action, incessant radio announcements, to having to tackle the director. Thus concentrating becomes a difficult job for a commentator.

“There’s an awful lot of distractions to keep on top of, so if you happen to be looking at your notes when somebody has a moment and you don’t see it, it’s not your fault.”

Kirby laughs. “But try explaining that to Cycling Weekly and their letters column.”

Fans & Opinions:

There is absolutely no deficit of distractions for a commentator. He has to engage with the directors in the ear, guarantee that innumerable hours of gaps are filled in suitably, deal with incoming radio announcements, all the while tackling an uproar of a different kind with the action around him.

“Quite often you are talking while being handed a note, being spoken to by the director, and listening to race radio at the same time as well,” says Kirby.

It doesn’t take much accomplishment to understand what Kirby is referring to. There are several fan forums who constantly try to have him removed from Eurosport and even petition their demands on the grounds of ‘inane chatter’, ‘terrible jokes’, and ‘unnecessary screaming.’

But it is also true that there isn’t a dearth of genuine fans of Kirby who really appreciate his vast knowledge on the field. Kirby is not uncomfortable with the spurt of social media and the exponential increase of criticism that has gone alongside with it.

When asked about the criticism, Kirby opined “It’s not like the written press where you can write something out and finesse it and shave it, I don’t have that gift.” He kept on saying, It’s gone, it’s irretrievable. There is no editing process, except between the brain and the larynx. Once it’s out there you’re done, so you’ll just have to forgive me if I make the odd gaffe”

His Approach On Commenting This Year:

While Kirby and his teammates would head across the channel for the Tour de France, the recent situation suggests he will be covering the 2020 edition from the Eurosport studios in London.

“When you’re on-site, even though you’re there, you’re still watching a monitor,” Kirby says. “You’re at the finish line, essentially watching the TV – albeit with extra screens.”

That doesn’t portend his job has not become a whole lot harder. The sights and sounds of the race and the attention of aptitude in an ample pressroom can renounce some valuable chunks for a commentator.

“If it’s one of those days where it’s going to end in a sprint and you need to cover 240km, then it’s gonna be a bit of a drag. The break’s going to go up the road, they’re going to be allowed anything up to 15 minutes of an advantage and everyone else is just having a chat – including us.”

“All the other commentators from all the other nations and all their information are in the same room, so you often get people saying: ‘Have you heard this?’, with loads of things to share. Info-wise, being on-site is amazing.”

Nonetheless, one other thing that Kirby believes, sets the very best apart is commitment.

Kirby has however found his own distinctive and unique style which has brilliantly worked for him all these years. And he’s trying to improve them. Being a commentator is all about improvisation and Kirby knows this quite well considering his huge range of experience. Having spent over 25 years in the field, he has seen a lot, as many other countless commentators have seen.

44 thoughts on “Carlton Kirby: The Celebrity Commentator Speaks On The Nature Of Cycling Broadcasts”

  1. Carlton Kirby should be broadcasting the Cycling Tours for EVER, it’s not only the cycling that is very important hr also gives an over site of the surrounding Towns, Country and Historic Buildings , I feel as tho I’m there , wha a JOY that he can give us this overwhelmingly info. Thank you so much Clive a true professional

  2. He is the worst cycling commentator I’ve ever heard and I’m sick of him rambling and laughing at his own jokes. Even Brian Smith thinks he’s clueless. I’m relieved everytime Rob Hatch takes over the commentary on Eurosport.

  3. There are endless hours in some of these races where nothing much is happening. Carlton fills the time beautifully. For those who don’t much like him – watch the other channel!

  4. I only tune in for his Commentary and that of JB.
    More painful than falling off a bike is trying to listen to others trying to copy / mimic his easy flowing chatter and failing miserably !

  5. Carlton is a star and one of the reasons I pay to have a Eurosport account rather than watch for free in German. The German commentators are professional and knowledgeable, but don’t raise a smile and are quite rigorous in sticking to the cycling. If you try to listen to them for a 2 hour stretch of a grand tour transitional stage, you may be informed but not really entertained. In comparison, Carlton is an entertainer and when combined with an ex-pro co-commentator, you get a great mix. I see him more in the vein of the great cricket commentators of Test Match Special who make it worth listening to even when the game is paused for rain. Chapeau Carlton and keep it up!

  6. Heard Carlton though Indurain, Armstrong, Sky … and flicking on the advert breaks twixt Eurosport & ITV4 he, Millar and Liggett have stoked my Tours interest.
    John Nottingham

  7. He may complain about the difficulty of commentating for the long hours of each stage BUT he ignores what is happening on the screen – e.g. who and why a team is leading the pelloton – and who the individual riders right in front of us are. And there are so many other things to talk about when not much is happening: e.g. which team is leading the team classification is never mentioned and is sometimes a reason for a move, who is contending for the combativity award, who won it on the last stage and how do you know who won it yesterday, what is happening in the grupetto… And can he please stop giggling, laughing at his own (not) jokes and eating his words so we don’t know what he said. BUT the main thing is please tell us what is in front of us on the screen!!!

  8. For avid cyclists, Carlton is annoying to say the least. He makes so many mistakes, like referring to cadence when he means speed and failing to recognise national champions in the peloton. He seems not to have picked up any real understanding of race tactics despite doing this job for years alongside ex-pros. He contradicts himself, often within a single sentence. I get that some people like his conversational style so I won’t criticise him for that, but his ignorance/laziness is frustrating, especially when there are so many better options available.

  9. I am increasingly getting fed up with the stupid and irrelevant comments of Carlton Kirby on Eurosport as he digresses from the action and laughs at is own comments and jokes (?). It is such a pleasure to listen to Rob Hatch, Matt Stephens and Brian Smith on Eurosport and Ned Boulting and David Miller on ITV4. The sadness is that Kirby knows his subject and if only he shut up from times to time it would be more pleasurable for me as a viewer and kistener. Unfortunately he loves his own voice far too much.

  10. He’s the worst cycling commentator on TV ever.

    He spoils the superb video coverage

    A sentence of six words will include at least one “umm” or an “err”
    “Err” often being the first word of the sentence.
    He needs to engage his brain before opening his mouth.

    Joanna Rowsell-Shand shows him up every time, she’s a much better commentator and has a far superior command of the English language and of sentence construction.

    Why he tries to be funny or makes silly smart-assed remarks, heaven only knows.

    An indepth knowledge of the sport does not make up in any way for all his failings as a communicator.

    Eurosport need to send him for some “public speaking training.”

    But I guess they think he’s too old and set in his ways.

    Thank heaven for the mute button.

  11. Some have it- some do not- Carlton has it- knowledge/wit/character/personality/humour/an ability to include all those that listen in- he has this crucial element where when you tune in you say ‘thank christ its him and not Rob Hatch”- most noticeable when things are quiet (the true judgement arena for cycling commentators)-he makes the cycling for me- the kind of guy who can keep talking and you want to keep listening- a giant of the sport…compared to the other guy Rob Hatch- who seems a really knowledgable guy and a nice guy..but his presentation is dreadful- repeating everything 2/3 times mostly at shouting level when things just get mildly exciting- over exciting himself too often and when not required or justified- meaning loosing credence when there is something to get excited about-continually talking over his co commentator as if he is more important and worst of all his incessant repeating of everyone’s full name and the overpowering annoyance of his accentuation of accents and names….we get it- he is a linguist..but its not just about him- Ive muted RH many times-either that or Id throw something at tv…so Carlton every time. I cannot believe there is not a pecking order at Euro sport where every finale especially the big stages of every tour gets called by Carlton- Sean kelly/Dan lloyd/Matt Stevens are excellent and experienced to listen to – but RH needs to be taken off the big ones…..Carlton for me every day

  12. Can this dude please stop slurping when he breathes it’s so annoying to listen to. I mean after every breath he sllllllllllllurps. For a professional commentator it’s the pits. Plus stop saying um eh em. And focus on the race not your own junk!

  13. Cycling is a very long sport in terms of stage length and the nature of the racing especially during long 250km flat stages where the breakaway is out for a long time, details to contend with such as frequently changing rosters and team names/sponsors, landscape details which are most always televised on the live race feed (especially in the Tour de France which is an advert for French tourism) and the actual racing occuring on the screen. This is not to mention that commentators are not even present sometimes at the event but are in a studio totally divorced from the race itself. I do agree in some respects that Carlton may need to tone down his jokes and seemingly relaxed form of commentating however I think that his commentating provides some relief and interest to a sport I feel is quite monotonous to watch especially when the stages are very long and little is occurring on the screen. Having former pro cyclists such as Brian Smith, Sean Kelly, Dan Lloyd and Matt Stephens provides us with the expert explanation and tactical understanding for viewers verses the need for some entertainment for a sport that often takes time to heat up to the “action”.
    It would be a great shame if Eurosport ever dropped Cartlon from their cycling commentary lineup.

  14. Rob Hatch is a superb commentator on cycling, as opposed to Kirby who manages to ruin every race he commentates on. Inane comments, stupid non jokes which only he laughs at and ridiculous over excitement at the climax. He should be reserved for reading summaries of the Dakar….where presumably someone writes the script for him to read out. I love Eurosport’s coverage but scream every time I hear the idiot’s voice and grin widely if it’s Rob Hatch or even any other commentator. When ITV4 cover the Grand Tours I will tune to them, and appreciate Ned Boulting and David Millar with their relevant, informed opinions rather than watch Eurosport on mute because Kirby is on the microphone.

  15. He’s a terrible mouth breather, please someone get him a bib or a cpap mask…
    He makes Phil Liggett look like a dumpster fire.

  16. I like him as he’s anything but dull. Sean Kelly has forgotten more than most will ever know about bike racing but has limited talent as commentator and even Brian Smith frequently shows his limitations. You need someone who can riff but has a good knowledge without needing a former professional career. Only a few ex pros could carry a commentary for a full stage.

  17. I had Eurosport for a couple of years but only to watch the cycling. I stopped my subscription because of him.

    I signed up again, 5 years later, to watch the Tour de France during lockdown hoping he had gone or at least improved his act. Sadly negative on both counts.

    When he’s on I change to the French commentators. I don’t understand French but the names of riders are the same and the on-screen captions do the rest.

    I doubt if I will renew my subscription, ITV4 highlights have real people not driven entirely by ego.

  18. I absolutely love listening to Kirby commentate on pro cycling. I find it such a joy and I love his humor and his verbiage and all the information he gives in the surrounding areas. Keep it going Kirby…. I think your wonderful!!

  19. I sit and watch the elites compete and the delight in CKs commentary isn’t in his knowledge, his occasionally inane drivel, or his speculations on machiavellian motives team by team – it’s his genuine pleasure at just being there to enjoy the racing.

    Better that than ITV4 with their dirt dry approach. CK, Rob Hatch, Sean Kelly, Adam Lynch – much more smiles per mile

  20. Just lately he seems to make stuff up, or get it completely wrong, Fridge’s full of Argon, NO, its Freon, plane on side of road, a Museum, NO, its a restaurant, Hat Museum, no it was a hat factory, rubber brake blocks on carbon rims, NO, should be Cork, Cavendish out of race because of broken fork, NO the wheel collapsed, every time riders look at each other, ISSUING AN OATH, mark 1 land rover on side of road, <NO it was mk2, 2 Yugo cars on side of road, Proto type of Fiat, NO they were a shortened version of Fiat 127, and constant, Meanwhile, none the less, Tots, unload ballast, Fantastic, rider doesn't know whats coming, he,d been up it twice before, says he,s go photographic memory, but got wrong country the hotel was in, and constant FOOD, doesn't mute mike when coughing guts up, still insists he,s professional commentator,

  21. Makes my family feel better that we are not the only ones who prefer Brian to his sidekick commentator who laughs all the time. We just watched the Tour of Turkey. You can tell that even Brian gets irritated at that constant snickering. If his name is Kirby, he is a nightmare. NBC Gold has a great commentator, Ant McCrossman, who actually sticks to reporting on cycling and talks about the race, not all kinds of “funny” stuff. Nothing wrong with humor, but the man makes everybody cringe…..Brian could actually easily do the show on his own.

  22. Oh my i adore Carlton Kirby’s commentary, the way he works with word-association is nothing short of verbal wizardry, and i have never found that he misses the action on the screen. His dulcet tones never annoy: I love his humor and his verbiage and all the information he gives in the surrounding areas. Keep it going Kirby…. I think your wonderful!!

  23. I am curious about Carlton Kirby’s explanation of the origins of the mountain classification in the TdF.
    Four categories but the Citroen Avant only ever had a 3-speed gearbox.

  24. The guy is a complete clown. Give me Rob Hatch any day. Carlton’s repetitive use of the same metaphors and similies is cringeworthy. “And it looks like (insert rider’s name) has joined the party. And it’s one that’s being held in his honour. But will he walk away with the cake and presents. But (insert other rider’s name) won’t be providing (rider a) with any gifts. In fact, he’s not even sure that that he’s on the guest list. But it’s a prestigious list and……” Please stop. Please.

  25. He’s as bad as ever, lots of “ums” and “errs” as usual. Still trying to be a smart ass on Eurosport covering the Olympic track events.
    Joanna Rowsell is streets better than he is at comentating.

  26. CK is truly dreadful, he can’t seem to recognise riders even though he does most of the races. Over excitement at every finish, all the races are fantastic and the best thing he’s ever seen. Well until the next time he gets to talk crap about wine he had the night before and then there’s the rambling through who might be riding for who when it’s a sprint finish. So basically he just reads out from his note whilst completely ignoring what’s on the screen.
    Embarrassingly bad and yet he seems to have no shame when corrected by whoever is commentating with him.
    He covers other sports too, just look up the comments when he’s doing Le Mans. Same inane stories and jokes …and the same reaction from those unfortunately listening.

  27. Bradley Northcoast

    Mouth breathing tool bag, I actually asked GCN for the cost of ky subscription back based in this retard and his microphone inhaling and inane yelling, his knowledge base isn’t all that well versed if you can stand listening to him for more then 15-20 minutes,
    Please fire him or keep away from stage races please!

  28. I don’t know what all the bitching is about. Any sport would kill to have this guy commentating for them. Only the banal are spewing negative comments.

  29. I now understand why people commit murder. WTF has the color of gummies to do with road racing.I could imagine this twat teamed up with Ted Kravitz from SKY F1. It would be a nightmare.

  30. He doesn’t get any better, does he?

    I can’t understand why anyone would say that “a broadcaster would kill to have this guy commentating for them.” Unless they meant they’d commit suicide if they were stuck with him.
    He’s rubbish, Joanna Rowsell shows him up every time, she has a better command of the English language, where he has difficulty stringing a few words together. He doesn’t engage his brain before opening his mouth.
    You can tell by his attitude that he thinks he’s good at his job. He isn’t.
    He’s less eloquent than Garth Crooks, who can tie himself on knots trying to appear knowledgeable.

  31. There is nobody else I’d rather listen to commentate than Carlton Kirby. It’s not that the others are better or worse: it’s just that Carlton consistently brings exactly what I need exactly when I need it. He is the only commentator who inspired me to get back on a bike after being run over by a car for the second time in three years, and he is the only human who made me laugh out loud when my father was dying for nine days from a massive brain bleed out. Undoubtedly, my world is a better place because of his choice of professions.

  32. The only way to listen to his commentary is on mute. So many “ers” and “erms”, mistakes, contradictions, and stupid comments and jokes.

  33. WWorld Champinships have been on Eurosport for less than five minutes and I’ve counted a dozen “errs.” already. I’m now counting the “ums,” nearly as many already.

    Joanna Rowsell is so much better.

  34. It’s not getting better, now he’s failing to keep his mouth closed whilst he’s going through his thought processes.

    I take it back about Joanna Rowsell. Growing with confidence, although far fewer “ums and errs,” she now seems to try to get as many words in as she can, before taking another breath!

    I’m “between a rock and a hard place” as the coverage as well as on Eurosport is on BBC 2.
    The commentary is far better, but we have to suffer as it must seem to be, that “expert on all sports” Clare Balding as a presenter, who must have convinced the BBC bosses of that, because of her ability to “talk bollox with authority.”
    Still, there’s always the mute button.

  35. What have they done to track cycling?

    “Champions League?” It’s like a dog and pony show with all the lights and music!
    That and Carlton’s usual annoyances, make it almost unwatchable.

    and Shut up Joanna!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.