For the second year running, Rui Costa is the most popular rider when it comes to fan mail sent direct to the Tour de France, Docapost, who run the Tour's internal Post Office, have confirmed to Cyclingnews.
Since the Tour began the Lampre-Merida leader has received 53 letters or e-cards to date, considerably more than Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who like in 2013, is in second place. TIago Machado (NetApp-Endura) is lying third with 36 messages, whilst Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), despite leaving the race, is in fourth - as he was in the Tour's ‘fan mail ranking' and the overall classification, curiously enough, last year - with 25. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) is in fifth with 24.
Some of the letters to the World Champion could be of the ‘get-well-soon' variety, given Costa has been suffering from bronchitis and lost time yesterday (Wednesday), and French TV said mid-stage that he was struggling a little today (Thursday), too.
"So far we've received nearly 300 letters for riders," Grégory Saccomani, Docapost's press officer on the race, told Cyclingnews. "That's pretty much the same as last year."
In 2013's final classification, of around 600 letters Rui Costa received a total of 285 messages, well ahead of Voeckler - the most popular rider in 2012 - with 38, whilst Valverde got 36. "He was amazed to have got so many messages, he actually rang up our director in Paris to check it wasn't some kind of prank, he didn't believe it." Saccomani recalls.
"So far it's the same tendency as last year, Rui Costa in the lead, Valverde always in the top three, whilst Machado" - riding his first ever Tour - "is a new addition, of course."
"Contador, I guess, will drop out of the top places as he's abandoned, regrettably, but Gallopin could be our French hope."
"Rui Costa was already very popular last year, even before winning his first stage . We put out a communique to that effect half-way through the Tour and when he won he got even more letters."
Information on how to send riders standard postcards or e-cards is available on www.docapost.com.