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Nearly 1 million viewers tune into ITV4 to watch Cav win green jersey on the Champs-Elysees

TV channel hails ratings boost - but world's biggest annual sporting event only just eclipses rugby league...

Getting on for a million people tuned into ITV4 last Sunday to watch Mark Cavendish win the final stage of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées for the third year in a row, and with it win the green points jersey that had previously eluded him.

During the three-week long race, won by Cadel Evans, viewer numbers for the hour-long evening highlights package nearly doubled as fans were gripped by what turned out to be one of the most exciting editions of the race in decades, reports the trade website, BikeBiz.

The audience peaked at 878,000 for the live broadcast on Sunday, although to put the figures into some kind of perspective, the world’s biggest annual sporting event on ITV4 only briefly passed the number following the Rugby League Challenge Cup quarter finals on BBC2.

Other cycling fans – including those who prefer the pairing of Harmon and Kelly to Liggett and Sherwen – would, of course, have been watching the Tour de France on Eurosport, so the actual Tour de France total figures will be higher than those provided by ITV4 alone.

The channel’s evening highlights, which had attracted around 500,000 viewes but that nearly doubled to 900,000 by the end of the race, and head of press for ITV broadcasting, James Macleod, said: "Viewing to ITV4's Tour de France highlights was up a huge 33 per cent year-on-year."

BikeBiz reports however that the coverage attracted some controversy due to Chris Boardman’s presence as expert pundit, given that he also provided the voiceovers for Halfords’ sponsor slots showcasing his own Boardman brand of bicycles.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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