Rui Costa rides for Movistar, a telephone company, but it looks like a fair chunk of his fans are equally willing to use other forms of communication other than giving him a call. Docapost, the company who run the Tour de France post office have revealed that this year Rui Costa, the Portuguese rider and double Tour de Suisse winner who is currently getting the most fan mail sent to riders on the Tour, succeeding Thomas Voeckler in 2012.
"The second most popular is Valverde, with Voeckler in third and Alberto Contador in fourth," Sylvain Fourre, from Docapost, told Cyclingnews.
"Europcar were the most popular team last year, with Movistar easily the most popular in 2013 - with Rui Costa and Valverde, who's also getting lots of letters, giving them a big boost."
Anything, from breakaways to crashes, can send riders' popularity soaring, according to Fourre. "When Johnny Hoogerland had that really bad crash a few years ago [in 2011], he suddenly got loads of letters, maybe 100 or 150. He had had no letters before and moved up to fifth or sixth by the end of the race. When Chavanel won a couple of stages, [in 2010] he got a lot of letters. If we had a French stage winner, or who got into a big break, you can be sure he will get a lot. Same goes for people who are unlucky. Leaders, too, of any classification, are certain to get a number of letters."
The sending of fan mail to riders during the Tour dates is nothing new. In 1962, journalists from El Mundo Deportivo reported when Federico Martin Bahamontes won at Superbagneres, they came down to the hotel lobby the next day where he and the Spaniard's Margnat squad were staying to find it "overflowing with telegrams of congratulations."
It is getting a little late now for post to arrive to riders direct - just sending it to such and such a rider with the Tour de France and the stage town finish or start is enough - but those wishing to send a e-letter to their favourite riders and to be sure of it arriving can do so by going to the website www.docapost.com and then clicking on the twitter link in the middle of the screen.
"You can send it by email, we print it out and send it to him as a real postcard."
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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