Tour de France helps cycling gain traction in East Asia

Tour de France 2017 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Tour de France has fired cycling interest in a number of Asian nations

Cycling is growing in interest in Asia, boosted by interest in high-profile events such as the Tour de France, which got under way at the weekend.

Figures released by analysts Nielsen Sports show a big growth in interest in Hong Kong, Japan and China.

The sport's governing body, the UCI, recently announced a new Chinese World Tour race - the Tour of Guangxi - which starts in October later this year.

The race is set to run for at least the next three years.

Of the cycling markets measured by Nielsen, Hong Kong showed the largest increase in interest in cycling, growing from 39% of those questioned in 2013 to 48% today.

Japan showed the second largest growth over the same period, where the popularity of cycling has jumped by seven percentage points, from 14% to 21% today.

Chinese interest in cycling has grown six percentage points, from 19% in 2013 to a quarter (25%) of the population today saying they are interested in the sport.

'Growing middle class'

As well as the new autumn race, the Tour de France criterium as well as the Etape China by le Tour de France are also making an entry into China in 2017.

"We're seeing a significant spike in interest in cycling across the region with numerous events being staged, especially in China," said Claude Ringuet, managing director for Nielsen Sports in South-East Asia and Greater China, and son of a professional rider.

"Increased investment and activation from the world's top cycling brands targeting the region, a growing middle class, increased investment in cycling infrastructure and the staging of major cycling events have all contributed to this growth we're seeing.

"The growth in both interest and steady participation increases are insights essential for both brands and rights owners looking to capitalize on this growth in public interest in the sport."

The US, Russian and India also feature in cycling's top ten growth markets, measured by interest in the sport.

Nielsen twice a year measures the responses of 1000 people aged 16-69 in 33 different international cycling markets, including in the sport's "heartland markets" such as France, Italy and Spain, which have all seen a growth in interest.

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