One of the constants in the modern day Aviva Tour of Britain has been Hugh Porter calling the race – whether it be for BBC, ITV and sometimes for the Public Address system as well

This year's race will be the 12th on the bounce in the commentator's booth for Porter while the four time former World Pursuit champion is also a link with the past having regularly ridden in the old Milk Race. Indeed it was a rock solid ninth place back in 1966, when he also won a stage into Bournemouth that provided the foundation of fitness and form for his Individual Pursuit gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica a few weeks later.
 
""Many top sportsmen become expert TV and radio pundits when they retire but to commentate is a very specific skill and Porter looks back on the broadcasting chapter of his career with almost as much pride as his cycling career.  Four times he won the World Professional Pursuit Championships – Rome (1968), Leicester (1970), Marseille (1972) and San Sebastian (1973) while he also won two silver and two bronze medals in the same event. Porter won the National Pursuit Championship on three occasions and, in his best road season, took the Star Trophy Series in 1966 which was a domestic title taking into account all the top road races in Britain that year.

Pictured above – On the podium in Marseille after winning his third World title beating Ferdinand Bracke (who was also chasing his third World title) and on the right, defending champion, Dirk Baert.
 
Porter ranks the third of his World titles as his career highlight, coming against his perennial rival Ferdinand Bracke who he overhauled in the second part of the race after trailing by nearly three seconds at halfway: "He was the rival I most respected, he held the our record, had finished third in the Tour de France, had won the Vuelta,” recalls Porter. “He was some rider."
 
""At the end of the 1970s though retirement beckoned and he embarked on a second career, albeit for a short while he tried to combine both before the microphone took over
 
"I was very lucky with my early mentors who showed me how the job is meant to be done properly,” recalls Porter who celebrated both is 75th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary earlier this year. He is married to Olympic swimming Gold medallist Anita Lonsbrough (pictured left).
 
"When I was coming to the end of my riding career, about 1979-80, BBC Radio Birmingham, which went on to become Radio WM, was starting up and their Sports Editor Roger Moody asked myself and Anita to present a little round up show on Monday evenings, all sports particular the smaller ones. That seemed to go OK and soon I got to commentate on Wolves home matches, a great treat for a Wolves fan.
 
"I also worked on a Friday night preview programme with two very talented young producers who went onto great things – Jim Rosenthal who became one of the most talented and versatile presenters in the game and Nick Owen a future star of Breakfast TV and much more besides. On other occasions I filled the "expert voice’ slot at some cycling events when Barry Davies and Tony Gubba were commentating. You can't help but learn from such professionals.”

 
Porter's biggest break, he believes, came in curious circumstances when he received an emergency call from Grandstand at the world cyclocross championship in Munich which he was attending with a view to dubbing over some commentary on his return to Britain for a package the next week. A huge snowstorm in Britain however saw all sport cancelled and suddenly live commentary of the amateur event was required for the Saturday programme. Gulp!
 
"I stayed up late doing my homework but come the race a German competitor dominated from start to finish and the German cameras stayed staunchly with their man. For an hour or more I had a solitary German and a muddy field to work with. It was a baptism of fire but I seemed to come through."
 
""Indeed he did. From Los Angeles in 1984 to London 2012 was the lead cycling commentator for the BBC as well as working at all the Commonwealth Games and every World Championships the BBC actually recovered. If GB won a medal of any description he was there calling it and that's before you even come to the Tour of Britain, the Tour Series and a host of domestic events. His voice became the backdrop to a golden era so much so that when Bradley Wiggins organised his successful Hour record attempt at Lee Valley Velodrome earlier this year he insisted on Porter dong the Public Address commentary because that was the voice that had essentially been the soundtrack of his career. That was the voice he wanted to hear as he ticked off the 218 or so laps.
 
"I have an unbridled passion for the sport and being in that privileged positon to call so many great moments – well it doesn’t get better than that. People often ask what my favourite commentary was and I find that very difficult to answer because there were so many.  In no particular order I'm thinking of all those big Brad Wiggins' moments on the track and that his wonderful TT gold at London 2012 when he was cheered from start to finish. Sir Chris Hoy's six Olympic gold medals were all memorable and Vicky Pendleton who was such an indomitable competitor in the sprints.  
 
"Chris Boardman in the Individual Pursuit at Barcelona in 1992 was special and poignant, he was so dominant and that wonderful looking bike had captured the imagination of many in an event so dear to my heart anyway. Jason Queally's Olympic gold in 2000 was exciting, a little unexpected and seemed very significant – the start of something very good for Team GB at the Sydney Olympics and for British Cycling generally. Nicole Cooke was always an exciting racer to watch and commentate on and her Olympic/Worlds double in 2008 is right up there, her World title in Varese was a thrilling race with all the big guns at the top of their game and of course Cav's World Road race title in 2011 was an incredible moment for anybody who cares about British cycling.

 
"The list is almost endless but there are one or two moments which also caught me by surprise a little, one of those was the Germans winning the Team Pursuit at the Dunc Gray Velodrome Sydney in 2000. They were the favourites so Germany winning wasn't the surprise but it was the time they recorded that nearly threw me. 
 
“For many years there had been this 4 minute barrier to smash through in the TP and it looked like it was never going to happen. Of course it’s pretty routine now which is a reminder of how quickly sport progresses when you stop sometimes to see where it has come from.
 
"Anyway I was commentating on the German quartet – Fulst, Bartko, Becke, Lehmann – when they beat Ukraine in the final and as they came over the line the time stopped at 3.59.710.  I almost hesitated in commentary because I couldn’t quite believe my eyes, I thought perhaps there had been an electronic splutter. Within the sport this was a big moment and I needed to get it right.  
 
"To be honest I hadn't been expecting to see a time quite that quick and I’m not sure anybody else did either.  Germany hadn't really looked in world record form coming through the rounds but they had measured their efforts perfectly and then gave it everything come the gold medal ride. Hopefully I did it justice in the end.”

 
""Having graduated from 'expert voice' to lead commentator Porter is aware of the pitfalls and difficulties of both jobs and likens the relationship needed to riding a Six Day race with a mate (as pictured right in the rainbow stripes). You spend long hours together in a confined space working as a team, feeding off each other and trying to play to each other's strengths. You get to know simply from the intonation of the other's voice what he is feeling and thinking and when he is going to pause and let you back in. It demands a pretty high level of teamwork.
 
"In my book the expert voice role is one of the most difficult jobs around which is a bit ironic because it's normally the first job the ex-sportsman, recently retired, is given. You are very reliant on the commentator leaving you something to get your teeth into and teeing you up with a subject or incident to discuss
 
"Having raced at a high level myself and also having been that expert voice I had to really concentrate hard on getting the balance right when I became the race caller. I had my own views an opinions bubbling around but as the commentator your primary job is to guide the viewer through the action, call the race accurately and to try and bring the drama out. You must leave the space and the opportunity for the expert to jump in with his insight.

 
"I've worked with some very good expert voices and pundits. On the track it has mainly been Gary Sutton, Shane's brother, who was a former World Points champion and Chris Boardman with all his experience insight. Chris also did some of the road races with me and most recently Brian Smith has filled that role. Brian is an experienced ex-pro and National champion, a former DS, a rider’s agent and now a big influence as manager at MTN Qhubeka so he can come at a race or a storyline from almost any angle. Another I rate very highly as a second voice was Graham Jones who was a very fine rider and really knows his stuff, he sees what is going on and is very good at pinpointing how things will unfold.”
 
""As for the Aviva Tour of Britain, in TV terms, Porter has seen the coverage develop from a 50 minute package at the end of the race, to a nightly hour highlights programme after every stage to the three hours live coverage every stage it now enjoys with ITV4
 
"The TV coverage has grown in tandem with the race and the race has developed in a parallel with the boom in British cycling. In the early days I also did the commentary for the PA system –  calling the race off "Race radio" and various messages coming through – which was quite a challenge before heading straight for the TV van to call the race again commentating on the edited highlights. Now it's much simpler in that we come on air at say 1pm and after briefly recapping the early part of a stage you go straight into live commentary."

Pictured above – Interviewing Mark Cavendish in the ballroom at Blackpool after 2011's Stage Two had been cancelled due to high winds. Mark travelled to the finish to meet fans and guests, as well as being interviewed by Hugh in this spectacular setting.
 
"""There are still one or two challenges, technology can go wrong and in a complicated stage with riders all over the road you can't always get the pictures you want. The big sprints are still the most difficult. Unlike track cycling, when I will have the best seat in the house up in the Gods and a TV monitor to look at, in a road race I will almost always be in the truck parked somewhere around the corner with only the TV picture to look at. 
 
"Often those pictures will be close in on the leading two or three riders, getting right in there with the action, but in a sprint riders are coming from everywhere, timing their runs late, pulling over, getting blocked and I ideally you need that view as well. When you are on the finish line itself you can look up from the TV monitor and take in that more general view you need.

 
“The Aviva Tour of Britain is a terrific race these days, it really takes some winning and it has established itself as the perfect warm-up to the World Championships. It aims for quality all the way. The stages are well thought out and challenging; the hotels are I suspect among the best they will stay at in the season, the race management by the police outriders and officials is excellent, the transfers are kept as short as possible and the stages don't finish too late.
  
"It’s a real hard mans event, mind you the old Milk Race was no picnic. 150 miles a stage was nothing unusual. In my first Milk Race, at the age of 21, we started in Blackpool and finished that night in Nottingham. And then by the following evening we were in Southend. It was two weeks long then, no rest days and we always started and finished in Blackpool for some reason. With 14 stages there was the scope to really wander far and wide but they were different days then, by comparison with now there was very little traffic"
  
"The hotel accommodation was basic shall we say but I look back on those days with great affection. One thing I recall is the front pockets we used to have on our jersey which we used to stuff with our food for the day. That was fine until they emptied and then billowed out in the wind and slowed you down by about 5-10mph Aerodynamic it wasn’t!. You could always tell the real Pro road racers because they had little buttons for their front pockets to close them up. Very wise.”

You will be able to hear Hugh Porter MBE commentating on the 2015 Aviva Tour of Britain alongside Brian Smith from 6 – 13 September starting with Stage One, LIVE on ITV at 1pm on Sunday 6 September. For full ITV and ITV4 listings please click here.

And if you'd like to cycle with Hugh, he's riding the Aviva Tour Ride on Sunday 4 October in Worcestershire. Hugh will be taking on the 40-mile Challenge Ride in aid of the Compton Hospice in Wolverhampton. Find out more and sign-up here.

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