For the second year running, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) is currently topping the leaderboard as the rider to receive most fan mail through the Tour de France internal postal service, Docapost.
The Movistar rider also received the most correspondence through Docapost in 2012 and 2015. This year, as of the Tour's second rest day on Tuesday, the Spanish veteran had received 59 letters or messages of support via Docapost. Valverde took third in the 'fan mail ranking' in 2013 and second in 2014, behind former teammate Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida)
The total for the Spaniard is nonetheless considerably down on 2015, when Valverde received upward of 135 letters in total fan mail.
Whilst Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) is second in the ranking with 35 letters, Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) has 26, Docapost's chef de mission at the Tour, Benjamin Alcorta tells Cyclingnews. Valverde, then, looks all but certain to ride into Paris as the leader of the fan mail race, if not the Tour.
One reason why Valverde is so popular amongst correspondents, Alcorta believes, "is because he answers all the fan mail individually, just like [former French star and Eurosport commentator] Richard Virenque used to do in the 1990s. He's got a huge following."
Alcorta also points out that for the first time this year that Docapost started delivering fan mail - back in the 1990s - every single rider in the Tour de France has received at least one piece of correspondence. This is because the 2017 Tour start city of Dusseldorf has already sent an individualised letter to every 2016 Tour starter, asking them to 'save the date' for next year's Grand Depart.
Information on how to send riders standard postcards or e-cards is available on www.docapost.com.