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The three Grand Tours (Tour de France, Vuelta a España, Giro d'Italia) more popular than ever on the web?

Added: sunday 27 December 2009 at 17:16:00
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    The three Grand Tours (Tour de France, Vuelta a Espa&ntildea, Giro d'Italia) more popular than ever on the web?With the Internet becoming more and more interactive and multimedia, the information about cycling races becomes much easier to find and much quicker available. This means that cycling races, and more specifically the three Grand Tours - the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España and the Giro d'Italia - should thus also become more and more popular on the Internet.

    In this article you can get an idea of the popularity of the three Grand Tours, based on data from the most popular search engine in the world, Google.


    Unless mentioned otherwise the data mentioned in this article concern the period 2004 until 2009.

    The popularity of the three Grand Tours

    First of all, let's have a look at the popularity of the three Grand Tours. We should of course note that, despite the fact that Google's data give a good indication on the popularity of the three Grand Tours, these data should not be seen as a perfect reference. These data give the popularity of a search query and not of the popularity of letour.fr for example.
    Therefore you'll also find below an estimation of the number of visitors of letour.fr and lavuelta.com (since the Giro's official website is part of the website of the Gazetta dello Sport, these data are unfortunately not available for the Giro). Based on these data we can for example at the end of 2010 compare the data for 2009 and 2010.

    The Tour de France

    The biggest and most popular of the three Grand Tours is of course the Tour de France. That popular that the Tour de France -among all sports- is the most important yearly sports event in the world (after the World Cup football and the Olympic Games, but those two events only take place once every 4 years).

    Looking at the evolution of the popularity of the search query "tour de france" on Google we clearly see that the Tour is losing popularity in the search world:

    Of course some warnings apply for these data:
    1/ you only see search queries and it's therefore possible that people now directly access the sites on which they can find information about the Tour de France instead of searching for it
    2/ these data are normalised compared to the number of search requests made on Google to better reflect the popularity of the search request "tour de france" compared to all search requests; this could mean that Google is being used more often by ... people who don't like cycling! ;-)

    Therefore, a comparison with the other two Grand Tours is also useful since they are also concerned by these two warnings.

    Doing a geographical zoom we get to see some interesting information:
    - the 5 countries where people search most often for "tour de france" are respectively France, The Netherlands (86), Belgium (74), Denmark (63) and Australia (45) - between brackets you see the popularity in these countries compared to the reference value 100 for France
    - this ranking is a bit different when we only look to data from 2009: France is still followed by The Netherlands (86) but they are followed by Denmark (66), Belgium (64) and an ex aequo of Norway and Switzerland (42)
    - zooming in a bit more on France, it turns out that a possible Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2013 from Corsica is not a bad idea since Corsica is at the top of the list of French regions for this search request. Corsica is followed by the Midi-Pyrénées region (92), the Limousin (88), the Languedoc-Rousillon (86) and Brittany (83)
    - in 2009 the people from Corsica were not really interested in the Tour de France and the top 5 was as follows: Franche-Comté, the Limousin (90), the Languedoc-Rousillon (86), Bourgogne (81) and finally the Rhône-Alpes region (76)

    The popularity of the site letour.fr
    As described above it's also quite interesting to have a look at the popularity of the websites of the three Grand Tours. Unfortunately I don't have any information about this for last year, but if you look at letour.fr's popularity in 2009 (this site is also being used for all other cycling races organised by A.S.O.), you see that the visitors mainly come for the Tour de France in July and a bit less for Paris-Nice in March and for the presentation of the 2010 route in October.

    The biggest peak in July 2009 means for letour.fr about 935,000 unique visitors a day:
    An estimation of the number of unique visitors of letour.fr in 2009
    An estimation of the number of unique visitors of letour.fr in 2009 - source Google Ad Planner

    The Vuelta a España - the Tour of Spain

    The second most popular Grand Tour takes place in Spain at the end of August / September, the Vuelta a España.

    When we take a look at the popularity of the search query "vuelta"* explanation on Google we clearly see that the Vuelta is getting more and more popular but is not yet back on its level of 2004 in search requests (80 in 2009 compared to the reference value of 100 for 2004):


    A geographical zoom again provides some interesting information:
    - the 5 countries where the search request "vuelta" is being performed most often are respectively Spain, Argentinia (87), Uruguay (72), Costa Rica (70) and finally Guatemala (49)
    - when we only take the data for 2009 Argentinia ends ahead of the organising country in this ranking; Spain is second (88), followed by Costa Rica (78), Uruguay (74) and Guatemala (54); in 2009 one country from the top 5 for the Tour ends in the top 10 for the Vuelta: The Netherlands on the 7th position (46)
    - zooming in on the organising country - Spain - and that only for the year 2009, gives the following ranking: Castilla-La Mancha, Bask country (98), Castilla y Léon (97), Salamanca (91), Navarra (86)

    The popularity of the site lavuelta.com
    Just like for letour.fr, let's now have a look at the popularity of the site lavuelta.com. The number of visitors of this site is far below the number of visitors for the Tour: the biggest peak in September 2009 for lavuelta.com gives about 83,900 unique visitors per day:
    An estimation of the number of unique visitors of lavuelta.com in 2009
    An estimation of the number of unique visitors of lavuelta.com in 2009 - source Google Ad Planner

    The Giro d'Italia - the Tour of Italy

    The third and last biggest Grand Tour is that of Italy which takes place every year in the month of May: the Giro d'Italia.

    Looking at how the popularity of the "giro italia" search request evolves on Google, we see that this is the Grand Tour which is performing best on popularity on the Internet (relatively of course since we'll see a bit further down in this article that this is the less popular Grand Tour):


    What's a bit surprising is that since 2004 the Giro had a growing popularity until 2006 before it fell back to a level between the one for 2004 and the one for 2005 in 2007 to start a new constant progression until now.

    Again, a geographical zoom provides some interesting information:
    - the 5 countries where the search request "giro italia" is performed most often are Italy, Slovenia (68), Spain (61), Colombia (61) and Denmark (55)
    - based on data for 2009 only, Italy is still the most important country, but it's immediately followed by Colombia (99) on the second position, followed by Slovenia (90), Norway (77) and the Czech Republic (75); Spain is only on the 6th position (60) and The Netherlands are 9th (43)
    - a zoom on the organising country - Italy - and that only for the year 2009, gives the following ranking: Trieste, Bergamo (97), Bolzano (92), Firenze (72), Padova (70)

    Comparing the three Grand Tours

    When we compare the three Grand Tours, we see that the Tour de France is still far above the other two, despite the bad performances the past few years (the Tour's website didn't follow the multimedia-hype and that might be what's working against it now!):


    Of course we see the expected peaks: in May for the Giro d'Italia, in July for the Tour de France and in September for the Vuelta a España.

    The seasonality of the search requests around the Tour de France

    A focus on the Tour de France shows that the search query "tour de france" is very seasonal: over the period 2005 until 2009 we see a peak every year in July and especially in the third week of the Tour, except for 2005 when the second week (most often the less popular week) was the most popular. Maybe the public was just tired of knowing that Lance Armstrong would again win the Tour de France and there wouldn't be any further surprise? The American rider already took the yellow jersey after the 4th stage and only let it go for one day after the 9th stage to Jens Voigt; so everyone expected Armstrong to take his 7th win after the 10th stage already.

    The seasonality of the popularity of the Tour de France

    A second peak in the search requests for "tour de france", much less important but clearly visible anyway, is the one in October when the route of the next year's Tour de France is revealed. In 2009 this equaled 4% of the peak of the first week of July, in 2008 it was still 6% of the peak of the third week of the Tour, in 2007 just like in 2009 4% of the peak of the first week, just like in 2006; in 2005 it was 3% of the second week of the Tour while in 2004 the official presentation only represented 2% of the peak of the last week of the Tour.

    When we zoom in on these two high traffic periods, the follow curves appear:
    - July 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 en 2009
    The Tour de France's popularity in the month of July

    - October 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 en 2009
    The Tour de France's popularity in the month of October

    In the second graph we can clearly distinguish the date of the presentation of the Tour de France the following year: 27 October 2005, 26 October 2006, 25 October 2007, 22 October 2008 and 14 October 2009. We also see the presentation gets more and more popular on the Internet, even though we don't really see a big gap which could be expected between 2007 and 2008/2009 (since 2008 the presentation is broadcasted live on letour.fr; with 2009 as the reference year, 2008 corresponded to a value of 87 and 2007 to 76).

    There where in 2006 and 2008 there was some activity from March/April, in 2009 we had to wait until May. This could well be the result of the fact that A.S.O. waited until the month of June for the first time this year to publish detailed information about all stages. In 2010 this will again be the case, even though I will publish detailed routes much earlier on my site ...

    The search request I chose for the Tour of Spain is simply the word "vuelta". The drawback is that other tours in Spanish speaking countries also fit in this (Vuelta a Mallorca, Vuelta Andalucia - end of February, Vuelta Castilla y Léon - end of March, Vuelta al Pais Vasco - early April, Vuelta a Burgos - early August, just to mention a few), but the advantage is that this search request most probably best shows the Vuelta's popularity, especially since we also have to take into account that this Tour has another name in every language. When you compare the data for the search request "vuelta" with those for "tour Spain" for example, you clearly see that "vuelta" represents a much bigger volume. Since the expected peak at the end of Augustus/early September when the race takes place is clearly visible as well, I think these data are quite representative for the popularity of the Tour of Spain.

    by Thomas Vergouwen
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