On the last Saturday of June, 198 cyclists got into their saddles ready to ‘step on it’ and give their best in the 100th edition of the 23 days and 3,400 kilometers long race, from Porto Vecchio and the beaches of Corsica, through picturesque sunflower and lavender fields, mountains and peaks of Alpe D’Huez, down the narrow cobble stone roads of medieval towns to the center of Paris. These men are touring restlessly across the largest country of Western Europe, all of them with one exact same goal in their minds – to cross the finish line wearing the “maillot jaune,” the famous yellow jersey, and to be crowned with winner’s wreath in the middle of Champs Élysées.

Le Tour de France is one of the toughest, most prestigious, and triumphant — and at the same time most questioned, condemned, and controversial — sport events in the world. We decided to zoom in on the social media conversation around Le Tour and discover the range of opinions about this event.

As we created a unique set of analyses engaging two largest social media networks, Twitter and Facebook, Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight™ allowed us to look at the conversation from couple different angles and thanks to our platform’s flexible set-up functionalities and filtering system, we were able to get under radar not only overall global conversation, but we focused on different geographic regions and distilled out TDF posts coming from USA, UK and France.

We started to track the conversation as of June, four weeks prior to the first race day, in order to identify trends and dynamics of the initial ‘pre-event’ buzz. As of today almost one million posts returned based on our query globally.

Global Total Tour De France online conversations

Our Twitter firehose access allows us to breakdown the conversation based on the geographic location and distill the most dominant regions that are shaping the cycling discussion. However, we should remember that not everybody who owns the Twitter account will fill out their locale or turn on the locator on their mobile device. But even the volume filtered by the geo-location gives you a great representative sample and helps you to understand how busy and engaging this topic is in different parts of world.

Our geo-monitors told us that more than 250,000 people tweeted from France, the home country of Le Tour, 85,000 commented from the United Kingdom and little less than 80,000 from United States.


France Total online conversations

Le Tour de France commence, l’occasion de découvrir de magnifiques panoramas cachés par un camping-car.

— Jean Cassette (@JeanCassette) June 22, 2013

Le Tour de France started, opportunity to discover beautiful mountain views hidden behind the camping car.


Totatl UK Tour De France social conversations

Now trying to work out if I can watch all of the tennis in Worcester and make it back to london to watch the #TDF highlights. #unlikely

— Matt Sheppard (@Matt_Sheps) July 7, 2013


A little 4th of July read – “@velonews: The Americans at the Tour de France are each one of us. http://t.co/nZb7oYG2ln

— Ryan Smith (@rgs0204) July 4, 2013

The next step to better understand nuanced conversation is the opinion analysis. And as we advanced with the topic we took a ‘deep dive’ in order to identify the complex layers of the Le Tour discussion. We cleared the geo-location filters and put in use our language classifier to capture all global conversation about the biggest cycling event in English.

The most challenging part of building the opinion analysis is to identify the most prolific and distinguishing categories, especially for such a turbulent and quickly developing topic, in order to encompass the true character of the event. As we learned from the daily livestream view monitoring latest 24 hours, the conversation surrounding this phenomenon is changing literally by a day, or even by an hour.

LiveStream afterstage

To demonstrate the dynamism of this topic, we navigated across the different étapes of this opinion analysis, broke the monitor into increments and it revealed a unique ‘maturing process’ of categories over the period before the tour and then one week ‘après’ the first day of the race, which happened to be the day generating the greatest portion of conversation, with a global volume just under 150,000. Surprisingly it was not the performances of the riders but the discussion concentrated on the infamous incident when a bus got stuck at the finish line area and caused major chaos resulting into ugly massive crash literally meters from the finish line that drew the most comments.

We built the opinion analysis around the conversation and observed the progress of the identified topics pre-event and also throughout the individual stages as the tour started. This analysis offered us some interesting insights. Some of the categories stood out and became more dominant and some of them on the other hand dissolved as the tour became more and more alive.

The strongest category in the first four week pre-tour period is the humor category. People were making fun of the event and flooding the social media universe with jokes referring to the doping affairs and scandals that corrupted cycling world in the past couple years.

I think it’s unfair people give Lance Armstrong for winning the Tour De France on drugs, when I was on drugs, I couldn’t even find my bike

— Kimithy Law (@Forever_A_Conee) June 17, 2013

Amsterdam is a lot like the Tour de France. It’s just a lot of people on drugs riding bikes.

— Baburao Apte (@TheRainPoet) June 10, 2013

But as the tour commenced, conversation changed sharply and took a new fresh positive turn. Humor and negative comments almost disappeared and optimistic, cheerful posts took over the Twittersphere. Audiences voiced support for their favorite riders and teams, enjoying themselves watching the Grand Tour!

Tour 10 days POSITIVE area proportion

Smashing etape today. Chapeau to Cannondale, and frankly that’s probably the green jersey nailed onto Sagan. #TDF

— Rob Sellers (@RobSellers) July 5, 2013

Great to see @TeamSky leading the way today with @chrisfroome @richie_porte #tourdefrance

— Chris Buncombe (@Chris_Buncombe) July 6, 2013

There are 10 days left till the peloton will ‘fly’ more than 30mph through the finish line in Paris. Who is going to be the new legend and write the history as the winner of the 100th Le Tour de France? Stay tuned and watch the Crimson Hexagon blog space for more multilingual “two-wheel” in-depth insights.

Bonne chance to all the riders!