Paris - Once viewed as a means of transport for the masses, cycling is attracting more sports fans in China, a new survey said on Friday on the eve of the Tour de France.
Fans of cycling are increasing in numbers around the world, but no 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% of respondents to 48% today in Hong Kong, 14% to 21% in Japan and 19% to 25% in China.
The survey of 1 000 people aged 16-69 is conducted twice yearly in each of the 37 markets, Nielsen said in a statement.
The Tour de France, the world's pre-eminent cycling stage race, starts Saturday from Dusseldorf, Germany and ends in Paris on July 23.
Ringuet, who has raced the tour and 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% to 40% over the same period.