Lance Armstrong may not have won the Tour de France this year but he found some surprising new fans at the event thanks to the free social networking site Twitter.
French cycling fans had never taken to Armstrong when he dominated the Tour from 1999-2005 and generally went out of their way to cheer for anyone but the Texan. And the feeling was seemingly mutual for much of the time.
But the New York Times reported that this year the French saw Armstrong as an underdog after his three year absence, and his regular messages, or ‘tweets’ on Twitter made him seem more open and more accessible to the public, winning him new friends in the process. Despite a three year layoff Armstrong came back to finish the three-week race in third place, and along the way took time out to share his thoughts with the Twitterati.
In a reversal of past tours the French public turned out in force to cheer Armstrong on, and he shared the love. “Thanks/Merci!!” was his parting salvo as he left France. As well as daily updates on the stages raced, Armstrong took time out to congratulate teammate Alberto Contador on his ascent to Verbier ('Alberto - super and had great punch/power. A heartfelt congrats to him'), offer his condolences to the family of the spectator killed by an outrider, and even post a pic of team manager Johan Bruyneel from 1979
Certainly the well-publicised spat with Alberto Contador post-Tour has garnered many more messages of support than the Texan might have expected from these shores, and it seems that his more open and relaxed attitude to this year's race has softened European hearts.
Lance is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lancearmstrong