PARIS (AFP) — Interest in the Tour de France is growing worldwide despite cycling’s battle with doping, but the host nation is bucking the trend, according to a study released Wednesday.
France is a rare country where interest in the Tour has fallen over the past three years, according to the Repucom sports data company.
Globally, though, there has been a rise, with 23 percent of people saying they follow Tour news, up from 20 percent in 2012.
Repucom said it polled 11,000 people across 11 countries, covering adults and teenagers in the general population. It found France was the only country to record a drop, from 33 percent of the population in 2012 to 32 percent now.
In the United States, home of Lance Armstrong, whose seven Tour wins were disqualified, interest has grown four percentage points to 18 percent of the population.
In Britain, home to current leader Chris Froome (Sky), the rise is one percentage point to 22 percent.
The Netherlands and Spain have the highest interest at 38 percent. The Spanish market is stable from 2012 but in the Netherlands, the rise has been three percentage points.
In Italy, home of reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), the figure has risen eight percentage points to 30 percent of the population.
In new markets such as the United Arab Emirates, interest has rocketed 14 percentage points to 20 percent, the study said.
According to Repucom, the popularity rise can also be seen among commercial backers, undeterred by the sport’s drug problems. The race, which finishes in Paris on Sunday, now has five top-level sponsors.
“Following the doping scandals that rocked cycling over the last 10 years, we are now seeing that the sport is turning a corner, in terms of fan popularity and in terms of sponsorship,” said Repucom market research vice president Mike Wragg.