A voice of 'cross - Dave Towle

It was a cold, wet evening in Cincinnati. We had just finished the race and done the women’s podium when my teammate Katerina told me: “We should give our podium flowers to Dave, what do you think?” pointing at the announcer of the race.

 At that time, back in 2014, I didn’t know him well. I had heard his voice many times and I had even heard him say some nice things about me before or during a race, but I never got to meet him. But he had said some nice things, so why not give him my flowers! Plus, he had been outside in the cold and the rain all night and if Katerina thought we should give him our flowers to thank him for his good job, then he was probably a good guy.

“Great idea!” I responded.

This was the first time I officially met Dave Towle. We chatted for a few seconds; he was very nice and he seemed very pleased to receive our flowers, but he had to get back to work because the men’s race was underway...

By now, I’ve seen Dave way more often and got to chat with him on many occasion. He never fails to impress me with the respect and kindness he shows towards racers. Dave is passionate about the sport and he loves sharing his knowledge with people; his deep, powerful voice being the perfect tool to do so.

It was a pleasure interviewing him and I hope you will all enjoy getting to know the man who can scream “one to go one to go one to go” faster than anyone else on this planet.

I’m glad we gave him our flowers!

***

Which came first; your love for cycling or the desire to be a sport announcer?

By far my love for cycling, but I had to think about it. I really just wanted to be involved in cycling in anyway that I could. It was pretty clear early on that it wouldn’t be as a racer, so I looked elsewhere. I was a mechanic, worked for teams and in shops. The announcer dream really started when I started going to races a lot in the late 90’s and realized that was a thing that I could maybe do. 

How does one become a cycling announcer? How did it happen for you -Did you always want to be a cycling announcer or did the job find you (because you had an amazing voice, got opportunities, etc)?  

That’s a really hard one to answer. There was a definite moment where I made the leap of faith required. I had been doing this thing called CyberBike; that was basically indoor trainer racing at auto shows (a side show to give people something to watch and do). It was a long way from being a race announcer, which was what I really wanted, but all the jobs were taken and I was light on connections. So twist of fate in Breckenridge back in 2002, the announcer they hired didn’t show up and I was more than happy to fill in. It was an out of body experience for many reasons, and I never really wanted to do anything else since. I had to really work hard, sometimes for not much money. It took a while to build up speed, but getting to do the first and every Tour de Georgia and Tour of California helped me start to build a base to work from.

 Thanks for the comment about my voice, but I just see myself as a craftsman, I try to use it as a tool and still, and to this day, look to make opportunities for myself.

What would you say is the trick to being a great announcer vs a good one? 

I think it’s honestly either in you or it’s not. But, there is definitely a huge element of being prepared. Doing the homework, reading about riders you don’t know enough about. Staying focused and treating it like a job is really important too. A lot of people who may only announce a few times a year have a hard time with focus. With all their friends coming up to talk while the racing is going on. Its hard to say, “hey, I have to announce” , but you need to. The organizer and racers want to know you’re working, not socializing.

Dave at the Amgen Tour Of California. Photo taken on Facebook from Jon Suzuki 

Dave at the Amgen Tour Of California. Photo taken on Facebook from Jon Suzuki 

Did you ever take any special courses for announcing (ex: diction class, communication class, etc)? Do you need to do voice exercise or to warm up your voice before a big day of racing?

 I still want to work on trying to do voice over work someday. To do that, I’m going to have to take classes and get serious. I haven’t yet, but plan to. Outside of drinking a lot of water, I don’t really do anything special. I don’t want to start relying on things to feel good about my voice. So far, so good.

Do you read a lot? When I listen to you, it seems to me that you have a really rich vocabulary and you always make original comments and comparisons. You seem to be very cultured. If you don’t read a lot, what’s your secret? If you do read a lot, what are some of your favorite books/magazines/journals? 

I read a ton. I listen to a lot of audio books now, too. I just finished “Hamilton” and have been in love with history and places my entire life. I listen to a lot of NPR and podcasts like “The Moth” as well as the other end of the spectrum like Adam Carolla, who I really respect and enjoy.

Have you ever announced for other types of events than cycling? 

A bit of running and triathlon, but not too much. Almost none in the last 4 years. I’d rather work on voice stuff that I have passion for, like cycling, rather than other sports that I’d honestly be doing just to be able to hammer a check.

The other day, at the Clif Bar Speed Hole tournament in Vegas, you threw an amazing statistic on Katerina Nash. Are you a statistic guy in life in general or do you make sure to learn some for your work? How do you find those statistics? 

Honestly, reading. The Internet is amazing. It used to be tons of times going through old cycling magazines, over and over. Now I can just ask the Google or follow a path once you start digging in on a story.

Are you a fan of other sports too? 

I for sure am a fan of most sports. Some more than others, some not at all, but mostly, I love sports. I don’t know much about anything outside cycling and the Olympics, though.

How do you prepare for an event? 

Talk to organizers. I have a checklist in my own mind. Do I know what I need to know in the sense of the why/when/where/who and sponsor front? If not I need to get those basics figured out in the week before the event.

The rest is what makes you special as an announcer. Taking the time to just talk and learn about people. It goes a long way when you show the top riders respect and just ask questions about who they are as a person.

What does a day at the race look like for you? 

 I get to the venue an hour before the first start. I usually announce all categories so that means 7am. Try to give everyone their dues. If you race hard, I try to notice. It’s pretty steady all day, usually the last race ends by 6pm. Not too exciting really. I sit there and announce all day, seriously!

I think announcing is a full-time job, right? How many events per year do you cover on average? And what does a typical week look like for you?

It is a full time job, but I can always work more. There are a lot of weekends where I could work three different events and have to choose one. The next month there could be three weeks in a row with no work. So scheduling is a big part of the struggle! I’m trying to get some projects off the ground and that has been filling the rest of my time, sort of!

All right let’s be honest here. You are human after all, you must have your favorites at the races sometimes, don’t you? However, no one can tell from your comments during a race. How do you keep it so neutral when you get emotionally caught in the action of the race? 

Oh, for sure, honestly, like you. Like Amy D. Like Rohan Dennis or Alex Howes. There are just certain athletes I dig, for a lot of reasons. I try to keep it on the up and up. I try to remember that everyone deserves a fair shake out there. There are not many sports that have the commentary being heard by the athletes while they are in the arena of play the way cycling does. So, to say negative or passively aggressive stuff is bullshit in my opinion. I don’t want riders saying they could feel me rooting for their competition. It’s not easy and I’m not perfect, so I try to think about that all the time.

Dave with Taylor Phinney at the USA Pro Challenge in 2015. Photo taken on Facebook by David Hunter 

Dave with Taylor Phinney at the USA Pro Challenge in 2015. Photo taken on Facebook by David Hunter 

What’s the biggest mistake you have ever made on the mic?

 Man, I’ll take the easy route here. I’ve done a few I’m not proud of. I’d say ringing the “one to go” bell too early at Gila and Iron Horse (I still dispute my level of blame, but whatever). It certainly fucked up the race for some good guys, like Troy Wells. That’s why I’m glad he’s a friend and cuts me break.

What is the coolest thing you have witnessed at an event? 

That’s a hard one. When I was a kid one of the Soviet riders came up to me after a race and his team had left him behind or forgotten him. He asked if I could show him the way back to the dorms they stayed in. So I rode with him and everyone looked at me like I was crazy, or cool, or something. I felt like I was somebody for the first time in my life. That made me really happy.

I’ve seen a ton of people reach their goal, exceed who they thought they could be, almost always at an amateur level. That’s always awesome to watch. People seem to give way too much credit to me for being there to announce it when they do that. I’m just stoked and lucky, it’s not that far for me to go out of my way to care.

Biggest challenge when announcing at a bike race?

Being funny and high energy without being cheesy and insulting people’s sensibility. They came to a bike race, not to hear my opinions about Trump or guns, so I have to remember that. 

Favorite cycling discipline?

No doubt it’s cyclocross. 

Best memory (any particular event you announced you are most proud of or any moment you said something amazing and got a really cool reaction from a rider or a crowd)? 

Doing the Tour of Ireland for all three years it existed was my highlight. It was such an honor to be there, I met so many people. It was scary, I was out of my league but I stepped up and never let them know I was panicking! It makes me smile about how intimidated I was….

At the USA Pro Challenge Stage 3. Photo by Deirdre Moynihan on Facebook

At the USA Pro Challenge Stage 3. Photo by Deirdre Moynihan on Facebook

Do you sometimes have nothing to say? What happens in those moments?  

I know I’m in trouble when I start thinking to hard and get tired of myself! That’s a good sign that maybe other people are too. So I might just take a small break, grab some food, and reset myself. Believe me, I know I can wear on people when its all Dave, all day long. That’s just not fair to the world!

Is there something else you would like to accomplish in your career ?

I learned that the more I want to be at an event, the less likely it is to happen. I now let the world come to me much more than I used to. I hope it works, but getting your heart broken happens a lot in announcing. Way more than people may know, and I’m only kind of talking about me, as it’s a lot of others too. That said, getting to do LA 2024, if it happens, would be nice.

What do you like to do in your free time? 

 I want to go to Finland! So travel and see old friends…..

***

Thank you Dave for taking the time!