Paul Sherwen, a pro-cycling commentator widely credited with introducing the English-speaking world to the sport, died on Sunday at his home in Uganda. He was 62.
Sherwen's voice became almost inextricable from the Tour de France and other major cycling events after a stellar career as a competitor. He rode in the Tour seven times during the 1970s and 1980s and finished five times. He won two British road-racing championships. But he was best known for his 33 years describing the world's most famous and grueling cycling competition. His partner for most of those July marathons was a fellow Briton, Phil Liggett.
"I went to bed in Africa with a heavy heart last night feeling sadness like never before," Liggett wrote on Twitter. "My team mate for 33 years was no longer with me. Your hundreds of messages showed how well @PaulSherwen was loved."
Liggett also said on Twitter that Sherwen's family told him the cause of death was "heart failure." No further details were immediately available.
Sherwen, who as a veteran of the pro peloton knew the profound suffering racers often endure, was known for his colorful descriptions of riders who were nearing their limit on the Tour's long mountain stages. He spoke of racers "digging into their suitcase of courage." A rider who had been repeatedly tested on a tough climb was "on the rivet."
The tone of the cycling world's reaction to Sherwen's passing: devastated.
"The soundtrack to our July and our sport has been silenced," Australia's Cycling Central wrote on Twitter. "We are too gutted for words right now."
Over more than three decades, Sherwen spread his passion for cycling across British, Australian and American television and radio to new generations of fans. He covered the sport during five Olympic Games as an analyst for NBC Sports.
"We are saddened to offer our condolences to the friends and family of Paul Sherwen, who passed away this morning at his home in Uganda," the news outlet said in a statement on Sunday.
"Paul was synonymous with the Tour de France in the U.S. and will be greatly missed by his legions of fans and the NBC Sports family, which was honored to be part of Paul's 40th Tour last July," NBC wrote. "Our thoughts are with Paul's wife, Katherine, their children, and all of those in the cycling community who became Paul Sherwen fans over his many years calling the sport he loved."
British Cycling called Sherwen in a tweet "a great voice of our sport."
Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour seven times before being stripped of his championships amid a major doping scandal, wrote about meeting Sherwen in 1992, when he worked as a press officer for Team Motorola. "He was always a class act and a great friend," Armstrong said.
Sherwen was born in the northern English county of Lancashire and had lived with his family in Uganda since age 7, NBC Sports reported. "He helped create Paul's Peloton, which brought bicycles to Africa, and advocated for African wildlife as a chairman of the Ugandan Conservation Foundation and supporter of the Helping Rhinos initiative."