By Julien Pretot
REDON, France (Reuters) - Lance Armstrong set the trend and the peloton soon caught the bug with almost every rider in this year's Tour de France now a Twitter user.
No sooner have they crossed the finishing line, perhaps managing a shower first, riders have been quick to post their thoughts on anything from the race to current affairs or messages to fans on the social networking site.
"Cycling used to live behind closed doors and Twitter is a great way to involve the fans. Everything that helps the sport gain transparency is a good thing. We're all for it," Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford told Reuters.
"The peloton is a reasonably small community with about 800 professional riders and this is a great way to keep in touch."
The Briton added that cyclists "have more time on their hands" to spend on their smart phones during transfers or in the hotel after a race than most other sportsmen.
BMC team director John Lelangue has seen most of his riders fall for the trend and said it let fans get behind the scenes.
"We send pictures taken in the bus or in places to which they have no access," the Belgian mentor of Australian Cadel Evans told Reuters.
The RadioShack team formerly led by seven-times Tour champion Armstrong showed the way in terms of tweeting and several of their riders like Americans Chris Horner or Levi Leipheimer even run their own personal blogs during the Tour.
"Riders are probably under less scrutiny than other sports people like football players," said Garmin-Cervelo team director Jonathan Vaughters, himself a keen Twitter user.
"We're not using it as a planned communication means. I'm mostly trying to be funny," he told Reuters, making it clear there was no censorship over what the riders might tweet.
"There's total freedom of speech."
Not everyone is a convert, though, with German Jens Voigt, the oldest rider in the Tour de France bunch at nearly 40, one of a number of the sport's old guard still reluctant to get involved.
"I have mixed feelings about it because if I write an angry message under pressure or at the end of a stage and I regret it, it will be read as far as China and stay there for a million years," he said.
"I'm a little old fashioned and I need paper, something to hold to be sure it's fact."
He may not have a Twitter profile but he cannot escape the phenomenon with some of his fans creating a page called jensvoigtfacts listing imaginary feats achieved by the larger-than-life rider.
One tweet on the feed read: "Jens Voigt's Swiss Army Knife includes spare handlebars."
"It's cool, I see it as a great honor," he said. "After all, we're here to entertain people."
The German is still resisting the temptation to open an account and was shocked to learn another veteran, Briton David Millar, had finally signed up at the weekend.
"Yes I heard about that. And even (Australian) Stuart (O'Grady) did it two days ago. The young riders in the team keep pushing me. I might crack under pressure," he said.
(Editing by Sonia Oxley)