A range of figures from the world of cycling came together in Manchester on Wednesday to remember former professional cyclist and commentator Paul Sherwen.
From riders and team managers to broadcasters and race organisers, Sherwen’s broad range of friends and colleagues joined his family for a memorial service at the Manchester Cathedral on Wednesday afternoon.
Sherwen, a former professional racer in the 1980s and later the voice of ITV’s Tour de France coverage alongside Phil Liggett, died on December 2 at the age of 62.
The turnout for the memorial, which followed a funeral in Sherwen’s adopted home country of Uganda, once again showcased the impact Sherwen made on so many people’s lives. There were more than 250 people gathered in the cathedral, including members of the public and cycling fans. Addressing the congregation, Liggett revealed he’d received more than 10,000 messages on Twitter in the three days that followed Sherwen’s death.
Among the former professional riders were Sean Kelly, Allan Peiper, Sean Yates, Alain Bondue, Mick Rogers, John Herety, and Sid Barrass. American Jim Ochowicz, current manager of the CCC Team and a former colleague of Sherwen’s at Motorola, was among those who made a long trip for the memorial. The same went for Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme, who was there with ASO colleagues. Former UCI president Brian Cookson was also there, along with the current president of British Cycling, Bob Howden.
Alongside prayers and hymns, Sherwen’s family – his wife Katherine, daughter Margaux, and son Alexander – and friends offered reflections on Sherwen’s life.
Ian Binder, a contemporary of Sherwen’s on the cycling scene in the north west of England, spoke of their old training rides and Sherwen’s combination of dedication and mischievous sense of humour.
Peiper’s voice cracked throughout as he remembered Sherwen as a father figure when he turned pro in 1983 and recalled a mountain stage of the 1984 Tour de France where, having been knocked off his bike by a fan, Sherwen had jeopardised his own chances of finishing inside the time limit to stick with him until the line. He also told of how, more recently, Sherwen had reached out to him and Sean Yates during periods of illness, helping them and encouraging them to help each other.
“Since Paul’s passing I’ve been more aware of being empathetic, thinking more about other people,” Peiper said. “I think that if we all try to do that then we can keep Paul’s memory alive.”
John Davies, who had helped bring everyone together for the memorial, spoke of Sherwen’s work in Uganda, which he and his family made home, and where he was involved with gold mining and with wildlife conservation efforts. “He showed just how much one person can affect so many lives,” said Davies. “He was a one-man NGO.”
Liggett, who spent 35 years alongside Sherwen behind the microphone at the Tour de France and other races, spoke of the pair’s close relationship, describing them as ‘Siamese twins, joined at the hip’.
“He would never have anticipated such an outpouring of love and there’s no doubt at all that Paul was a special person to thousands of people around the world,” Liggett said.
“We’ve all shed a tear, of course, for the passing of Paul, but in life there is inevitably death. However, along the way, we create memories, and they will remain with us forever. Your love is so clearly demonstrated by this wonderful memorial in this cathedral and all I can say is thank you for coming to say ‘au revoir’ to a very special guy.”
Before a moving recital of Mozart’s clarinet concerto brought an end to the service, Katherine Sherwen spoke of her grief but also of the ‘energy’ that had been created by so many people coming together to remember and share memories of her husband.
“Quantum physics says that energy cannot be destroyed – only transformed,” she said. “So I take comfort in knowing Paul is still with us.”
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