In the age of Twitter and social media everyone can be famous for fifteen friends, and then there is Francaise de Jeux's Arthur Vichot.
Everywhere you looked, this year's Tour Down Under threw up heroes.'Gringo' Greipel, Timmy Roe, Cadel Evans, whose attack was the mostthrilling we can remember on local soil, Luke Roberts, whose bridge toEvans' group was almost better, and Arthur Vichot.
Vichot, 21, is in his first year as a pro with Francaise de Jeux, but is already a cult figure thanks to his adoption by the Port Adelaide cycling club.
Theclub wanted a rider for its 'Operation: support an obscure pro' andsettled on the French youngster, who ticked most of the boxes by beingunknown in Australia, speaking minimal English and looking a bit like Frodo.
Inthe opening street criterium Vichot rolled home in 94th place and was understandably thrown by being mobbed afterwards by fans wearing 'AllezVichot' t-shirts.
On Friday's climb near Fox Hill Creek, aFrench flag and the words 'Allez Arthur ' stretched the full width ofthe road. On Saturday, his name was plastered over Willunga hill more frequently than Lance Armstrong's.
His Facebook fan page has grown to over 1100 members, and he even scored a kiss.
Vichotfans plan to continue their support at future races, including hisplanned debut in this year's Paris-Roubaix, and beyond, should he winhis way onto Francaise de Jeux's rosters for the grand tours.
Asfor the man himself, he responded by finishing 48th overall in the TDU– ahead of names like Yaroslav Popovych, Stuart O'Grady, Oscar Pereiro,Jens Voigt and Alby Davis – and was suitably bemused by the experience.
"Whydo you pick me?" he reportedly asked when fans gathered at Adelaide'sHilton Hotel to present him with a club jersey. "I am innocent."
On reading the Agence France-Presse headline 'Armstrong hitsthe beers Down Under', the Broom Wagon brewed a pot of tea, located itsfavourite pouff and settled down for a few minutes of enjoyablescuttlebutt.
As recently as Saturday, Lance had seemed allbusiness-like and determined, telling hacks he had goofed off afterlast year's Tour Down Under and vowed not to repeat the mistake.
Andnow here he was only a day or two later, waking up under a bridge witha thumping headache, curry stains all over his Radio Shack jersey and aroad sign that he totally didn't remember stealing.
Maybe he'd even climbed aboard the private jet and gone and backed it into a fire hydrant.
To say we were let down by the subsequent articleis like saying Graeme Brown is a bit highly strung. The headline hadits roots in a message Armstrong posted on Twitter, which in theinterests of fair and honest reporting we reproduce in its entirety:
"Having a beer w/ @teamradioshack. Good week here @tourdownunder."
Howthat became 'Armstrong hits the beers' perhaps says something aboutTwitter and its inadequacy as a replacement for your old-fashionedmethods of news-gathering. Twitter has its value, especially if youlike book reviews by the Kardashians, but as a source for news it can sometimes be like trying to give a weather forecast from inside a doona.
Dispatches from the Twitterverse
With his easy use of urban slang, @taylorphinney makes theBroom Wagon feel as old as its Wii fitness age. If there is a person inthe kingdom who can interpret this tweetthey shall have their freedom and, upon provision of postal address, ablock of Tasmanian vintage cheddar. Answers on a postcard to firstname.lastname@example.org.
An itchy @Chris_Boardman reaches decision time
What could @bradwiggins want with English Pop Idol star Gareth Gates? Music lovers can only hope and pray it involves access to a recording studio
The first two casualties of holding the track world cup in China are truth, and @leighhoward1's facebook page
A new time trial position leaves @simongerrans in discomfort. Which would not be surprising if he has decided to go for this
It's no Lance's private jet, but the Evans-Passerinis give their thumbs up to Virgin Blue
Christian Prudhomme has revealed the first two stages of the 2011 Tour de France, and it's exciting news if you like your parcours designed by the makers of It's a Knockout.
Theteam time trial is back, and so is the Passage du Gois, the slimy,periodically flooded strip of cobbles connecting the Ile de Noirmoutierwith France.
Last time the Tour crossed the causeway in 1999,a crash split the peloton and eventual second placer Alex Zulle lostsix minutes on Lance Armstrong.
Here is how it unfolded (from 1.52):