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Twitter Engages Professional Cycling Fans

Twitter is officially mainstream during the Amgen Tour of California (ATOC). Twitter is engaging race fans as professional cyclists traverse California for 9 days. Racers, team directors and fans are “in conversation” on Twitter using hashtags #atoc and #toc. (Hashtags are keywords included to identify common stream of conversation on Twitter.)

How to get Live Twitter Race Coverage

Get live race coverage on Twitter Search at http://search.twitter.com/search?q=atoc.

You don’t have to sign up for a Twitter to enjoy live commentary and race coverage about the Tour of California. Learn what the fans are seeing and thinking, what some of the racers and team directors are sharing.

Cycling fans are turning to Twitter to read these 140-character micro-blogging updates, aka “tweets.”

ATOC Twitter Best Race News

@rustyventure is thanking the Twitterverse for their coverage, as shown above. He concludes:

“best race news was #atoc.”

Is Twitter better than other Sports sites?

Have the other sports sites failed?

AmgenTourofCalifornia.com

Amgen’s Tour of California website has a live tracker with video and race coverage.  That’s pretty engaging, right? Yes.

A race fan has to really WANT coverage offered on Amgen’s site. Visit. You are greeted with the following barrier to entry:

“Click here for live race coverage with the TourTracker, powered by Adobe Flash”

“Click here to continue to the Amgen Tour of California website”

Amgen’s website has been the “go to” spot for Tour coverage the past 2 years. Has been? Well, it still is. Is it THE go to spot? Not anymore!

Twitter provides more in-depth play-by-play.

Amgen’s use of Twitter is worse than entry into their website. After following @AmgenTourofCali, I immediately unfollowed. On 02.16.09, I noticed their latest tweet was on 12.19.09 with the announcement of the TOC teams. The term for this is “Epic FAIL!”

Those of us who “do” Social Media as a living see this more often than not. People and organizations learn of the magnetism and reach of Twitter. They sign up, tweet, then drop out due to lack of understanding. They don’t get involved in the conversation.

Amgen’s Tour of California Twitter stream could have been a valuable asset. Amgen should be leveraging Twitter to:

  1. Engage cycling race fans;
  2. Announce winners;
  3. Share race changes due to weather, including road closures;
  4. Increase website traffic and search engine ranking – a Twitter by-product.

Versus.com

Versus.com (VS) has extensive pro cycling race coverage on their Cyclism Channel.

Pro Cycling fans once relied solely on Versus TV for race coverage, unless one put up a satellite dish tuned to Italian and/or Spanish TV. VS race coverage is usually limited. A six-hour race is edited down to 30 minutes or 2 hours. Only a few races, such as the Tour de France and now the Tour of California, are broadcast live with recaps rebroadcast throughout the day.Very cool!

Versus.com says the Amgen Tour of California:

“will bring the drama and excitement of a professional bicycle stage race to the California coast. The world’s top professional teams will compete over an [sic] nine-day, 800-mile race on a route that includes the California redwoods, wine country and the Pacific Coast.

Cycling Drama and Excitement?

You bet! Thank you, VS, for bringing such extensive TV coverage of the Tour of California! This year, we are especially thankful for Lance Armstrong’s return to cycling. Race coverage and public interest is heightened because of this 7-time Tour de France winner’s return from retirement and his cancer-survival and awareness efforts.

How could VS expand upon this excitement? Engage pro cycling race fans!

Versus on Twitter?

@versustv, Versus.com’s profile on Twitter, fails. @versustv tweeted the following on 02.15.09:

TOUR OF CALIFORNIA LIVE COVERAGE —- TODAY @ 12:30 —- ONLY ON VERSUS!!!!

  • ALL CAPS?
  • No links to their website telling more about coverage.
  • No indication if time was EST or PST.
  • No further race updates!

The next update to their Twitter profile was on 02.16.09 at 10:30am, PST, 1 hour AFTER live race coverage started on Versus TV:

Watching the AMGEN Tour of California on VERSUS….are you?

That’s it for VS Twitter updates for the day…

Race Commentator Phil Ligget mentioned Twitter today during the live broadcast on VS. He gets it. After Lance Armstrong’s crash with a motorbike. Phil said:

“Johan Bruyneel will be doing his Twitter.”

Why Twitter?

Why are people turning to Twitter ahead of TV coverage?

ATOC Twitterverse Coverage

@AntHeald mentioned he has never followed the Tour of California before, but now he is because of Twitter.

Twitter is changing coverage of professional cycling. Twitter is converting and engaging race fans more than traditional television and website coverage.

#ATOC on Twitter

The Twitter stream for #atoc on February 16 showed discussion about the tour was the hottest and most-used hashtag on Twitter for the day. At 2:26pm, @klassman posted:

#atoc climbed to number three in Twitter trends for the day. Awesome second half of the stage drove the conversation.

No sports website or newspaper has the reach of Twitter. ATOC on Twitter is Social Media in its penultimate form – full race fan engagement!

Twitter is as up-to-date as the “crackle of race radio!”

The following shows updates about the Stage 2 crash that involved Lance and a motorbike as well as 15 of the riders. I heard about the crash. I immediately turned to Twitter Search:

#atoc Twitter Search

Twitter Cycling Surprise

Twitter discussion about the race took me by surprise. I’ve been on Twitter for over a year, and it primarily serves as my networking hub with other search marketers and social media addicts. I’ve connected with fellow cycling aficionados on Twitter more during the past few months. Twitterverse conversation about the Amgen Tour of California marked a turning point in my understanding of how Twitter has permeated professional cycling.

We joined a cadre of cycling fans to watch the Prologue in Sacramento and Stage 1 in Winters, CA. While driving to Winters, the first sprint point of the race, I checked my Twitter stream and learned from @JohanBruyneel that four Team Astana bikes had been stolen, including Lance’s time trial bike. I followed the conversation and @LanceArmstrong‘s posting of a picture of his bike. I tweeted and shared with my followers:

Convo on Twitpic re Lance’s stolen bike http://twitpic.com/1i8t1 – support, odd input & spam

I also saw that one of my friends and co-founder of Velo Bella, @SabineDukes, was in Davis and that her fiancée, Mike Hernandez, was announcing the Junior Race. We almost took a detour through Davis to see them but continued to Winters. I later started watching her tweets for some great updates and pictures.

The Race Without Twitter

My cell phone coverage in Winters was non-existent. I couldn’t log on to Twitter. Oh no… After watching the Twitter stream earlier, I wanted to know when the racers would arrive. I couldn’t login. Here is the play-by-play of the race without Twitter:

  • I joined friends on the sprint line an hour early to get a good spot.
  • Rain poured down.
  • Anticipation mounted.
  • We knew the racers would have to make a 90-degree turn on paved bricks at the center of town right before the sprint.
  • Course marshalls updated us on the arrival of the racers.
  • They were moving faster than anticipated.
  • There was a break away.
  • Would there be a sprint?
  • Where was in the lead?
  • I poised my camera at the spring point.
  • Helicopters soared overhead while cowbells rang.
  • Mancebo crossed the sprint line a minute ahead of 2 other guys. The field was 5 minutes behind.
  • I got the shot.
  • I couldn’t share it on Twitter or send it to TwitPic.

Mancebo wins Winters Sprint

Live race fans don’t have the advantage of television coverage and commentary. We rely on what we hear “word of mouth.” Now, if I don’t have Twitter at the race, I’ll feel cut off.

Mancebo went on to win the >100-mile Stage 1 after breaking away 5 miles into the race. His performance was an epic SUCCESS. Fans cheered and “high fived” for him on Twitter.

Twitter Live Commentary

Twitter is the “go to” spot for live commentary of the Tour of California! It’s citizen journalism and engagement at its highest level of interactivity, ever!

I don’t imagine Johan Bruyneel will tweet Team Astana’s race strategies or that Jonathan Vaughters will tweet Team Slipstream’s next move. They are, however, sharing their thoughts about the race and giving us a little insight into who they are, how they think and how proud they are of their teams.

The rest of the Tour of California will be discussed and reported on Twitter.  Personally, I’ll be in southern California for the final 4 days of the race. I’ll be among thousands who will be hooked to Twitter Search for #atoc.

Lesson to Cycling News Sites

There is a lesson to cycling news sites.

Get on board now, or get left behind.

Cycling fans may not know or care about “Social Media.” But we do hunger for latest news. We understand and yearn for conversation, to discuss the race and the riders, to show our support, and to hear from you.

Don’t get caught up in your bigness and the great amount of money invested in your websites. Put a little time and energy into engaging with your audience through Twitter. Other than time spent, it’s free.

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Category: Twitter

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4 Responses

  1. Mike Panic says:

    I woke up early this morning and was shocked when I read Lance’s tweet about his TT bike being stolen, then a few hours later I saw the major news agencies started to pick up on it too, all from his Twitter message!

    How to Drive 1000 Miles in One Day, Revisited:

  2. Twitter has changed the dynamics of following the race. Now, we all wish a tweet would go out announcing the crooks have been strung up and the bikes found!

  3. Scott says:

    I actually made a blog feed of the big names in cycling on Twitter, all come in to one feed for easy reading.

    You can find it on BikeBlogCollection at http://www.bikeblogcollection.com/blog-feeds/

    Check it out, makes it easy!

  4. Scott, Thank you for sharing such a great Twitter cycling resource!

    Suggest you add yourself to WeFollow #biking as well.