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Eight Questions for Anthony McCrossan

[editor's note, by chris] Rescued from below... Anthony's thoughtful answers are getting buried under today's avalanche of news and posts. That said, I'm delighted with today's avalanche of news and posts, thanks to all the contributors. OK, back to the interview...

In what I hope is the first of a series of interviews we do on this site [as always, you guys can submit these too], today's treat is a tour of the Commentary Box with Anthony McCrossan, ace commentator for Cycling.TV.

If you can't already place his signature energized, British tones in your head, you will soon: Anthony and teammate Brian Smith are scheduled to deliver commentary on virtually every race on the calendar (with some caveats for his new independent status). Stop by his site for a sample and a picture of Anthony in action.

Let's get down to business...

Podium Cafe: We all know you as a polished commentator, but we'd like to know more about your start in commentating. I take it you did some live PA first at some local races? How did you get recognized enough to break into calling Pro races on TV?

Anthony McCrossan: My first ever commentary was at a city centre race in Winchester in the UK.  It just happened by accident really, right place wrong time or right place, right time depending on how you look at it!  I commentated to a few thousand people having never done it before and the inevitable happened, I got asked to do more!  For the first few years I did lots of live events at outdoors Velodromes, city centre races, then steadily I got more high profile work.  I was the front car commentator at the Leeds Classic, then did some tv criteriums and finally I got a break by doing 3 days of live commentary for Eurosport.  After that I was asked to work on The Tour of Britain, the London Cycle Show, a bit more on Eurosport and then Cycling TV.  For the last 2 years I have commentated on all the major events and now get asked to do some great live events too, such as the recent audience with Chris Horner and friends in Oregon.  I guess it has been a steady progress until the opportunity presented itself.  However I think the grounding of doing events to crowds is fantastic for when you do a 3 hour stage of the Vuelta for instance live on TV.

PdC: You and Brian Smith seem to have grown into a real duo. Obviously you both have lives that may someday take you in different directions, but do you anticipate staying on as a tandem? How important is this to you, both personally and in terms of your success/popularity?

A-McC:When I first met Brian I knew within minutes that he would be a great analyst/pundit.  We just clicked and he knew his stuff.  I think we have really developed as a team and learnt a lot off each other.  Our style is different to Phil and Paul but it works for us and our audience.  I would like to think that we will be a commentary duo for years to come, as I think we get better and better with every event.  We also have such a good time on and off the bike that it would be a shame not to be doing what we do.  Besides - he loves going out for a ride now and giving me a good kicking!

PdC:Tell us a bit about your day in the commentary box. Do you get to travel to races that you're broadcasting very often? What sort of homework did you have to do before a race?

A-McC: It really depends on what event we are working on.  There is never a normal day but generally we do a lot of preparation in advance.  I do all the technical prep like kilometres, where the climbs are etc and think about likely winners, recent performances etc.  Brian keeps an eye on the race and trakcs what has been happening from the start.  He will also speak to the team directors for some insights or to set up interviews.  I speak to the Director and check ad breaks, sponsors and so on.  We both know what our role is and we just get on with it before and when we sit down and go live everthing we need is there - it is just an unwritten rule that we dont let each other down and we have done our homework.  During the commentary - we both write an amazing amount of notes, and do a lot of pointing and also try not to laugh at each other!

We do lots and lots of homework.  We watch races, look at photographs, go to races, team launches, and we get annoyed if we miss something.  We have gone back on occasion if we have missed a move and watched to see why and where it went wrong - if indeed it did.  We have lots of books with us with palmares, we use websites, we read every magazine and website going.  It is just an ongoing process.

PdC: IMHO one great added value is calling the key action, especially the end of a sprint stage. Good announcers can sound like they're as excited as the rest of us fans, if not more so, which I would guess is something that happens when you're at ease and can naturally get caught up in the action? Did it take a while for you to reach this comfort level with commentating? When did you start to feel you'd arrived at that point?

A-McC:Thats a really interesting question.  I don't think I have ever had a problem getting excited about a finish.  When you break it all down, I am a passionate cycling fan who is very lucky to be able to convey that passion and excitement to an audience.  I think what does take a little time to get comfortable with is both of you in a commentary box getting excited and knowing when to talk.  In Gent Wevelgem on 2007, Brian said I didnt breath for 1km and he couldnt get a word in edgeways!

PdC: The only other announcers we really know here in the States are Phil and Paul. I'm sure the commentary world is a small one, so... are they colleagues or competitors? Do you guys share notes?

A-McC: We know Phil and Paul well. In fact I was with Phil on Friday on the London Eye at a team launch!  We always go and say hello when we are at the same races and they have helped us with advice, you have to remember that they have been doing this for years - we are the new guys in town so advice is welcome.  

PdC:How would you describe the future of Cycling.TV? It seems like the schedule is about as packed as can be and the interface is pretty loaded with features. Is the current version the end product, or do you think there's much more evolving to do?

A-McC: There is no doubt that this is an evolving technology and the purchase by Jump will start to roll out changes and added services.  The schdule is very packed and I am sure it will grow and develop.  

PdC: Is there room enough in the commentary box for two McCrossans? Do you and Martin ever team up to call a race?

A-McC: There is room enough in cycling for two McCrossans!  Martin has gained a lot of experience and I think he would be the first to say that his skill is first and foremost track commentary.  He is very good at it.  He knows all the riders, the times, the split times and the disciplines in depth.  He has also done some BMX commentary too and one of the programmes he presented with Rebecca has been shown 12 times on satellite TV.  We have never teamed up as we do the same role in a commentary and it wouldnt work.  But we both watch each others commentaries and programmes and give advice or facts and input.  It works well and we are looking forward to doing more!

PdC: Will the JustGiving charity rides be an annual feature? [Last year Anthony rode from London to Paris to raise money for Cambodian schools, through the JustGiving organization.]

A-McC: Yes, I think it is important to put something back.  This year I am riding London to Paris and I am trying to talk Brian into it.  We also do the braveheart ride at the end of the season.  I would like to do more and raise more money for charity by my involvement.