Paris - Once viewed only as a means of transport for the masses, cycling is attracting more sports fans in China, a new survey said Friday on the eve of the Tour de France.
Fans of cycling are increasing in numbers around the world, but nowhere more so than in Asia, where sharp growth has been seen in Hong Kong, China and Japan, according to figures released by Nielsen Sports.
"We're seeing a significant spike in interest in cycling across the region with numerous events being staged, especially in China," said Claude Ringuet, head of Nielsen Sports for Southeast Asia and Greater China.
Since 2013, interest has grown from 39 percent of respondents to 48 percent today in Hong Kong, 14 percent to 21 percent in Japan and 19 percent to 25 percent in China.
The survey of 1,000 people aged 16-69 is conducted twice yearly in 37 markets, Nielsen said in a statement.
The Tour de France, the world's pre-eminent cycling stage race, starts Saturday from Duesseldorf, Germany and ends in Paris on July 23.
Ringuet, whose father was a professional cyclist, said increased exposure to the sport and investment by top cycling brands had played a part in the sport's rising popularity.
Interest in cycling is also growing in countries where the sport has a traditional following, with interest in France growing from 34 percent to 40 percent over the same period.