Cyclists take their motivation from many different places, sometimes they can even get a little boost from Twitter. That may have been the case for Bontrager rider Gavin Mannion's all-day adventure off the front Tuesday during stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California from Palmdale to Santa Clarita.
The 21-year-old from Dedham, Massachusetts joined Champion System's Chad Beyer and WorldTour riders Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Andy Schleck (RadioShack Leopard) in a high-profile-yet-ultimately-unsuccessful breakaway.
Despite the move being caught and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) eventually sprinting to the win, Mannion also walked away a winner - in an ongoing battle with head soigneur Reed McCalvin over who could attract more followers on the social media platform.
"It started a few months ago," McCalvin said of his lighthearted battle with Mannion. "We were talking, and I was making fun of the guys because I had more followers than they did. Gavin picked up on it, and so each race he's been like, 'Gaining on you. Got this many, Got this many now.'"
While the team was driving to the start on Tuesday, Mannion checked in with McCalvin about his current status and found out he was only 10 followers away from his soigneur. Then McCalvin tempted fate.
"So I said, 'Don't go getting in the break today to try and get more followers than me," McCalvin said. "And then of course he's in the all-day break with Lieuwe Westra and Andy Schleck. So he skyrocketed over me that night. But I'm going to get his little leprechaun ass back this week."
The playful banter is a way for McCalvin, who has been with the development team since its inception, to keep things light for the young crew he helps oversee. And Mannion, who won the Best Young Rider jersey at the Tour of the Gila, is an enthusiastic participant. After his foray into the Tuesday breakaway he jumped past McCalvin by 34 followers. But the soigneur won't be taking this temporary defeat lying down, even if it means he has to employ some less-than-savory tactics to regain the lead.
"It's what I did when I was underneath 1,000 followers," McCalvin said. "I just put 'Belieber forever' and 'boobs' and a bunch of words like that. Then I got all of the spam people to follow me. So I think I might need to do that again, something vicious like that to get at him."
But Mannion has an even better card to play.
"It sounds like it's getting intense and he's going to play dirty," Mannion said with a sheepish grin before the stage 4 start on Wednesday. "I might have to go in a breakaway again. I'm going to have to pull something out to keep my followers up."
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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