AntBanter: Driving the Tweetmobile

Anybody who is familiar with VeloVoices will hopefully have enjoyed our live tweeting on race days. I once likened following VeloVoices commentary to watching a race in the pub with your mates, such is the level of banter and fun, and it’s a great addition to the race day experience.

Race coverage duties are shared around at VeloVoices Towers, but whoever is on the controls, you’ll find it’s the ideal antidote to Sean Kelly’s monotone. Today I’m chatting to the one and only @kittyfondue, queen of the live-tweet, about what makes VeloVoices commentary so much fun.

Ant: So how did the live tweeting get started exactly?

Kitty: It kind of started it by accident. It was during the Tour of Qatar last year and I was watching the Eurosport feed (yeah, they actually showed it last year) at work with the sound down. It was about lunchtime and I just started tweeting the last half hour because it was really exciting. And that was that. It was never anything we’d discussed as a team, it just happened and proved very popular right from the start. I’m afraid I might have created a rod for everyone’s back because now our followers expect it! A lot of other tweeters will point people in our direction for race updates now, so we’ve got a good reputation.

Ant: As somebody who has yet to have a crack at live tweeting myself, I can imagine it makes for a hectic few hours, and I’m interested to know how you prepare for a race.

Kitty: It depends on the race and it depends on the feed. For Omloop and KBK this weekend, I’ll be watching the Sporza feed. I don’t speak Flemish, except for ‘clam-bitchin’, so I have to make sure I have everything at my fingertips. So I write up A3 cheat sheets with a purple Sharpie (always purple): every rider and his number, the parcours by km so I can see what’s coming up, interesting race info et cetera. Those are on the floor around me so as I’m tweeting I can just look down to see who number 231 is if they’ve shot off the front.

All information is written with a purple Sharpie. Always purple ...

Kitty’s secret weapon – a purple Sharpie

If I’m watching via Eurosport, I always have this information handy but not as complete as I can rely on the commentators to get a lot of that info. I always do a parcours by kilometre summary though, so I have my bearings during the race.

You have to know the profile ...

You have to know the profile …

I also make sure that my list of other feeds, such as @tourdejose, @inrng and @opqscyclingteam are in their own column on Tweetdeck because they’re brilliant for double-checking stuff as the race progresses. It’s like mission control sometimes! Laptops, iPads, iPhone – I use them all during a live tweet session.

Ant: I can see how the preparation pays off. To think I had visions of TVs and lights going on the blink in your neighbourhood on racedays, and you sitting at some multiscreened supercomputer like Hugh Jackman in Swordfish – albeit much more feminine!

I know that banter with your audience is also an integral part of your commentary, some of which rolls from race to race. Is this purely by chance or do you do anything deliberate to generate specific themes?

Kitty: Most of the time it just comes naturally – a lot of the regulars on Twitter show up for the races so we just sort of pick up where we left off. And every race is different so something might happen that’s funny or unbelievable and that gets the conversation rolling. I try to respond to everyone who sends us a comment and interact. That’s my favourite part. I’ve met a lot of people through live tweeting and that’s actually how I met both you and Panache!

Ant: What have been some of your favourite threads?

Kitty: I love the way the silly team names get coined – GreenEdge&Ham was some sort of Dr Seuss in sports thread – all that kind of thing usually comes about because of a race day’s tweeting. I would hate to be po-faced when I was tweeting a race – watching and talking about a cycling race should be fun.

The GreenEdge&Ham team at mealtime

The GreenEdge&Ham team at mealtime

Ant: Although you manage to keep the light-hearted fun going, you must get the odd dud of a race. How do you cope with those?

Kitty: Yeah, some races can be dullsville or have big lulls that just draaaaaaaagggg. During those times, I try to harken back to when I was growing up. I get my love of sport from my dad – he was passionate about sport and we used to watch baseball together, that was our thing. In fact, we were both such baseball fans we’d listen to it on the radio – those are four to five-hour games! The great radio broadcasters would make you feel a part of the action even if you couldn’t see it and really hold your attention!

Kitty even knows the Infield Fly Rule

Kitty even knows the Infield Fly Rule

Dad and I would always talk in sports commentator talk: “Goodbye Mr Spaulding!” or “That ball is gone, gone, GONE!” whenever someone would hit a home run – just funny little catchphrases, so that’s the way I tweet. Give the audience the facts and then just have fun with the commentary. But above all, I try to convey the love and passion I have for the sport and the excitement of the race as it unfolds. (Which often ends up with me TWEETING IN ALL CAPS and swearing like a sailor!) My particular favourite was last year’s Tour of Turkey and Iljo Keisse’s fabulous win.

Keisse VV finish

Ant: And finally, which races are you most looking forward to tweeting about this year?

Kitty: I love the Classics – those are particularly hard though. You’re sitting there for four or five hours because Sporza starts showing them almost from the get-go and the whole race can turn on a dime so you have to be really focussed and alert the whole time. But that’s why I love them. There is such drama in those races, it’s great to be able to tweet all that. But I love tweeting just about any race, really – which is a good thing because I tend to be driving the Tweetmobile most weekends! If only someone would pay me to do that the whole season, I’d be a happy person! [Err … Ed.]

Ant: Well it all sounds pretty exhausting, I think I’ll need a few bottles of Duvel to keep my heart-rate down if I ever give it a go. For now though, I’ll leave it to the experts!

VeloVoices tries to tweet as many races as possible throughout the season so make sure you stop by on race day and say hi to whoever is driving the Tweetmobile.

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