by Neil Browne
Social Media and Grand Tours
We've had some great racing here in the States. The Tour of Utah just concluded and we had several days of exciting racing. Now I'm going to say something radical. Remember, I'm just throwing it out there as a potential idea, so hold back on your hate mail.
Stage 4 of the Tour of Utah was a circuit race around downtown Salt Lake City. The course was almost seven miles in length and the racers would bang handlebars for only 34 miles. The video feed was spotty, but from what I read the action was aggressive and entertaining. Jens Voigt took to Twitter after the race and posted, “That was some intense fast race, loved it. More races should be shorter, would be more action and fun to watch.”
I'm not suggesting that the Tour de France reduce the stages to city center circuits that are completed in 90 minutes, but how about incorporating one of these city-center-circuit stages as part of a stage race? Again, not in one of the grand tours (those are too sacred), but start with the UCI ranked 2.1 events. This is something the average television watcher could wrap their head around. Let's face it, some of those longer, flat stages that end in a field sprint are snorefests until the last thirty kilometers. With these shorter circuit races the middle man is cut out and we just get the “full gas” action. Just food for thought.
Speaking of full gas action the Tour of Utah also provided some post-race action that made its way onto Twitter.
Sick of finishing second, BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet made the social media mistake of trying to reach out to a podium hostess via Twitter. Initially he tried to direct message her, but was blocked by the micro-blogging site because they actually weren't following each other. What ensued were awkward middle school attempts of trying to connect at a post race party. All of this was caught by the always funny and informative @_mmmaiko_ on her Twitter account. Check out her Tumblr “CaliforniaStreaming” for all the details. All of this public fumbling around to make a connection got me thinking and I put together a few tips to help out a professional cyclist trying to meet that someone special.
1. Your window of opportunity to rendezvous with the object of your desire is limited. You might have a flight first thing in the morning - and if you did well at the race, you need to strike while the iron is hot and the alcohol is flowing. Whatever fame you might have from the stage victory or GC/jersey win is short-lived in the eyes of your attraction. Heaven forbid Tom Boonen is also in attendance and quite frankly, if he sets his steely brown Belgian eyes on the same person you have an interest in, it’s game over. You might as well call it a night and ask the masseuse for a late night deep massage to relieve any frustrations.
2. Yes, you can send a private message to someone via Twitter. In fact this is an inexpensive method to send an SMS if you have a European cell number and the person you are attempting to contact is Stateside. No obscene roaming charges for you using this method! The caveat is that you must first follow them and they MUST FOLLOW YOU AS WELL. If they don’t follow you, or you’re not following them, there’s just going to be some awkward public twitter messages that they can’t respond because you’re not following and vice-versa. Remember this acronym – FFTDM (Follow First Then Direct Message).
3. You can quickly set-up a Twitter account, but you’ll have very few Followers, and it will make you seem desperate. While you might be desperate, there’s no reason to transmit that on the internet.
4. Hopefully you at least have a Facebook account. Do a quick search for that person’s name, “Friend” them, and send a message. You are also dependent on how strict your object of desire’s privacy settings are. Reporters are discovering that more and more young people are not as active as on Facebook as they use to be. In fact, the fifty-plus age category is the hot Facebook demographic. If the AARP age range is your jam, then you might strike gold on Facebook.
Thankfully the Facebook privacy settings are a complicated system of multiple dropdown menus and knowing what to check to increase security. If the person you’re reaching out to is a savvy user and concerned with privacy, you might be of out luck. However, if you’re lucky enough to send them a direct message, be casual and ask something like, “Hey, we’re not sure where the after-party is. Do you?” Casually drop how you, your team, your teammate, did well in the race. Someone on your team must have won something, even a third place in the BFE Town Sprint is worth something! At least you have the conversational ball rolling and (hopefully) some social skills to take it from there.
5. If social media fails, plug in any and all information about your subject into Google. You might have to scroll several pages deep before you hit pay dirt, but eventually you’ll find them. This is your last ditch effort before you hit up Craigslist “Missed Connections” section. “Our eyes met when you escorted me to the Porta Potty for drug testing. I know this is ‘not normal’ but I felt a connection and ’I’m positive’ I want to get to know you better. Here’s hoping our ‘glow times’ coincide.
Here in North America the USA Pro Challenge is next followed by the Tour of Alberta. While Tommy Danielson took the victory in Utah, the seven-stage race in his home state of Colorado is a different course.
The Tour of Utah is arguably called the toughest stage race in the USA. While USA Pro Challenge is in the Rockies, the climbs aren't as steep, but altitude will be a factor for the racers. Team RadioShack's Chris Horner, who was second on GC in Utah, is heading to Spain for the 2013 Vuelta a Espana – so he's off the favorites list. Instead defending champion Garmin-Sharp's Christian Vande Velde is a favorite and one to watch. However, a rider that will be under the spotlight is Team Sky’s 2013 Tour de France winner Chris Froome.
I doubt Froome will be a threat to the overall as the climbs aren't tough enough to separate the field. However, Froome's appearance will generate huge media buzz and will sell a few Pinarello bikes, so that's not a bad thing. Bike companies are sitting on a few excess 2013 road bikes and anything positive can help.
As mentioned, Spain’s national Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, is also about to start and Horner considers himself a favorite. Prior to Utah, he logged five weeks of solid training, and according to the RadioShack rider this is enough for him to win the Vuelta. I like how Chris thinks – he's not afraid to aim deep for center field. It will be curious to see how well he performs in Spain considering the amount of saddle time he's had. But who knows maybe Horner can surprise everyone. At the age of 41, this would be a HUGE surprise.
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