The Australian Financial Review launched a cycling section on their online site a short time ago and they have been busy covering the Tour. Good news: the section is not behind the dreaded paywall! Of course, no coverage of le Tour these days could be complete without acknowledging the Twitter chatter (in a more positive context than the now infamous Wiggins presser) and Jason Murphy has written about it here.
Fans graze on fields of Twitter
The Tour de France will unfold on Twitter as much as on the hills of France, and the one account you must follow is the preposterous Australian-based Les Vaches du Tour.
Vache is French for cow, and the Twitter account is a homage to the cows of the Tour, going crazy whenever the telecast catches a glimpse of grazing bovines distracted by the passing parade of bikes, team cars and drunk spectators.
The account taps into an unspoken fact about cycling – big reason for the carnival atmosphere is that sometimes you have to make your own fun.
In the first half of a long flat stage when the peloton is bundling along, and Paul Sherwen is droning on about the heritage of yet another chateau, Twitter reflections on the Tour can provide sweet relief.
Les Vaches du Tour is the baby of two Australian women, Naomi Rush and Suzanne Farrell.
Rush explains that the phenomenon began two years ago when Paul Sherwen sought to fill some air-time by picking out a few cows in a field and declaring that they were Charolais, a breed of cattle.
“We tweeted each other and were laughing about the fact that it’s a bike race and they are talking about cows,” she says. “I don’t know why that particularly. They go off on so many tangents I’m not quite sure why the cows one tickled my fancy, but it did!”
Perhaps the delirium of the late nights and solitude of watching the Tour lends itself to eccentricity. Now the twitter account has 600 followers, a website, even its own merchandise.
“We’d love to go over there (to France),” Rush says. “I think it would be hard to manage – the cow-spotting stuff might suffer.”
There is no doubt that the couch is the perfect environment for social media. TV and tweeting go together like movies and popcorn. Twitter seems especially popular in Australia, where the dry wit crackles across the ether like wildfire.
And like any new social media phenomenon, an industry has sprung up to feed on it.
Twitter itself says: “When TV shows bring hashtags, accounts, or other Twitter elements into the broadcast itself, we see a direct and immediate increase in engagement on Twitter – anywhere from two to 10 times more tweets created while the shows air.”
There’s an obvious link between ratings and twitter activity, and TV types are excited to see if the causality could be flowing from Twitter to TV.
Companies like TrendrrTV and SocialGuide are solving “the problem of processing, understanding and leveraging social data around television.”
But unlike tweeting about the latest episode of Family Guy, watching cycling on TV and tweeting about it comes with the benefit of seeing the cyclists tweet back.
When they get off their bike after a race, certain riders are keen tweeters.
You can follow Cadel Evans’s account, as well as Jens Voigt and the world’s fastest sprinter, Mark Cavendish.
No professional cyclist has been seen tweeting while riding, but if they can feed themselves and even pee while racing, surely it’s not impossible in this day and age.
Ten accounts to follow:
@cadelofficial – the champ is on twitter and you should follow him.
@ChiaraPasserini – Cadel’s wife, and a very funny tweeter in her own right.
@lesvachesdutour – Bovine-inspired madness
@mwkeenan – SBS’s man on the ground and correspondent for the Australian Financial Review.
@bikesnobnyc – The most cutting and hilarious voice in cycling. Le Tour will not be spared his snark.
@PhilLiggett – The voice of cycling.
@orica_GreenEDGE – Australia’s new team releases a lot of backstage intrigue via Twitter.
@MarkCavendish – The confident and brash sprint guru is in his element on Twitter.
@thejensie – Jens Voigt: part man, part monster. Probably the toughest and most popular man in the peloton.
@stueyOG – Stuart O’Grady started riding the Tour before the internet was even invented and is a fearsome force on Twitter.