Twitter’s gonna transform professional cycling

Lynne Kiesling

I just participated in distributed information newsmaking history, and it’s really, really cool. A little background: I’ve been on Twitter for a few months, initially as a way to talk with a couple of friends. But then I found Team Slipstream and Lance Armstrong on Twitter, and from there just kept adding cyclists … now most of those I follow are cyclists (Lance has a serious Twitterdiction, by the way!). Dave Zabriskie, Ivan Basso, Tom Danielson, etc. I am intrigued by the alacrity with which the professional cycling community has taken to Twitter.

One of the regular cycling posters on Twitter is Johan Bruyneel, who is an amazing team director, and directs Team Astana; this season Lance and Levi Leipheimer are two of the riders on Team Astana. Bruyneel is an incredible strategist and tactician. During the stages the race director rides in the team car and works with the riders to give them what they need to do the best job possible on the day.

Today was the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California, and it was grim — cold, rainy, treacherous. I tuned in to watch the coverage on Versus, which was having trouble getting video because the rain was disrupting data transmissions from cameras. At the same time, I had opened Twitter search and searched on the “ATOC” tag, which meant that anyone who was tweeting about the race and put that tag in their tweet would show up in the search. Throughout the race, for over 4 hours, Bruyneel would update his Twitter stream with real-time information from the Team Astana race car. Real, on-the-scene information, right there, in real time.

Wow. Just wow. But it even gets better than that, because there were other folks posting as well, some of whom were spectators on the ground in Santa Rosa too. So the stream was a combination of comments from those of us at home, spectators on the course, and participants like Bruyneel. They filled in info where the broadcast didn’t have any, and some tweets even corrected some mis-information that folks like VeloNews and Cycling News were posting on their race blogs.

This is really, really big. Seriously transformative. Not only is the information content higher, but it actually felt like I was watching the stage with a group of cycling fans in real time. For sports like cycling that don’t have great media coverage and have relatively small fan bases, the ability of fans to coalesce across space has major economic and marketing implications. One of the tweets was from a guy who said that he was following the Twitter search stream from the UK, and that he was loving being able to participate in it.

That’s why someone who’s a virtuoso strategist like Johan Bruyneel is bothering to tweet from the race car during the stage, and why the uber-strategist rider on his team (that would be Lance) encouraged Bruyneel to get on Twitter.

Tomorrow Steep Hill will be providing almost-real-time updates from Bonny Doon, one of my favorite wineries in the hills outside of Santa Cruz: “I was planning to report almost live from Bonny Doon tomorrow with photos and video.”

I can’t remember the last time I was this excited and fascinated by engaging with professional cycling. And it’s the personal communication of the riders and the team directors that are creating that excitement.

Wow. Just. Wow.


5 thoughts on “Twitter’s gonna transform professional cycling

  1. Yeah, Twitter really gets you into the middle of the action. The only real limitation is roaming charges. I’m off to Dublin today to see Neil Gaiman, but my iPhone contract is UK based and Dublin is in a foreign country so I can’t afford to have the data features enabled (it is around $2/Mb, which is down 67% after the EU gave the telephone companies a rocket). I’m hoping to find some reasonably priced wi-fi.

  2. Lynn — I found #atoc about 30 minutes before firing up my Google Reader and finding this post. Once again, you are on the curve. I r/t your post to the #atoc. Hope you get some new readers as a result.

    Oh — and unrelated to anything — I’m doing a HIM in May. I need to pick up my running and drop about 15 pounds but it should be fun.

  3. After some testing it appears that running Twitter on an iPhone (or rather the Tweetie app) is sufficiently low bandwidth that you can use it at roaming rates without bankrupting yourself. I’m not launching Safari or collecting email though.

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