Never Strays Far is a cycling podcast. At least, it is in name only.
In fact, not even that is true. This summer, the top ranked sports podcast on iTunes had neither the words “cycling”, nor “Tour de France” in its title. Instead, its name contains half a well-known expression, shorn of its context, leaving the rest open to interpretation. And that’s the nub of it. The continuing conversation between me, David and Pete (and when available, Lizzie) is equally shorn of context and open to interpretation. Sometimes, there’s even some cycling.
NSF was born during the 2019 Vuelta, when David and I were spending three weeks alongside one another in a commentary booth in Ealing, watching Primoż Roglič calmly winning his first Grand Tour (in a style David would memorably go on to describe as being akin to a gladiator sitting at the side of the arena calmly peeling an orange while everyone flailed about, killing and getting killed.)
Commentating for a TV show which only shows the highlights is an odd process. Although we could in theory commentate for the entirety of the live feed of the race (normally about 2 hours), but there is little point. If the stage ends in a 15 kilometre climb, then most of the highlights will be drawn from that final battle, and not from the 80 kilometres leading up to it. As a result, we watch, from time to time taking notes, until it is time to spring into action.
That leaves an abnormal amount of time to talk about other stuff, which is something we do ceaselessly, both being inquisitive by nature. That was why we decided to launch a daily Vuelta pod called, rather satisfyingly, “Revuelta”. We called in a huge favour from our friend Perry (Peredur ap Gwynedd, the rock guitarist and Welsh language cycling commentator), who wrote us a jingle. We blagged some artwork from somebody at ITV and we were away. Literally.
The pod instantly became the home for all our mental back chat that occupied us while the racing was playing out. That first series featured long, partially informed, half understood discussions about asteroid deflection, the poetry of Dylan Thomas and, in a particularly challenging episode, the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein inasmuch as two cycling commentators understood it (.07%).
In 2020, we strangled Revuelta as it slept, and rebooted with the catchily titled Never Strays Far, before dropping that in turn for a series of ever more weird sub-titled sub-genres; Never Strays Fata Morgana, Never Strays Fahrrad, Never Strays France, Never Strays Farl and, of course, Never Strays Farfalle, the daily pod from the 2021 Giro d’Italia in which David discovered a hitherto unknown facility for dream interpretation, and I managed to bring the podcast listeners all the latest traffic news from whichever bit of provincial Italy I had woken up in. It was intense.
In 2022, things changed again, with the news that ITV Sport were not planning on hosting a Tour de France podcast in July. Up we stepped, to fill the void. But this time, we decided not to podcast first thing in the morning, but instead to make use of the fact that every evening we had a transfer in a car to complete. Never Strays Car was born.
Tentatively, we asked Pete Kennaugh if he’d like to join in. If he’d refused, it would have been a very, very tiresome month for him, sitting in the passenger seat of the Ford Galaxy, not saying a word while we farted around with microphones every day. Fortunately, he agreed. And the rest is history, (and geography, science, music and art). The week in which Lizzie Deignan was forced to join us, by dint of being in the car and having a microphone thrust in her hand, was perhaps the zenith of sporting podcastery.
With the workings of Pete’s mind now turbo-charging the strangeness, the pod has accelerated into previously unknowable areas of human experience, best summed up in Pete’s recent account of his Pirate Ship adventure. And, from the mud of Torbay, to the top of Alpe d’Huez (Pete having been the first British winner there), you sense the journey is only just beginning in earnest.
From the humble origins of Revuelta, to the lofty glories of NSF in 2022, we have come quite a way together in a very short space of time. We have HUGE plans (really gigantic, mega plans) for 2023, and we can’t wait to share them with you. Thank you for being with us, and we look forward to plenty more straying in the years to come.