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Julien Goupil: “Over 80,000 People Participated in the Virtual Tour de France, That’s a Good Start.”

By Frantiska Blazkova

As you might have heard, the Tour de France is undergoing a novelty approach this year, alongside the l’Étape du Tour. Besides the dates being postponed, which is unheard of in the race’s history, Le Tour is going virtual for the first time over three weekends between 4th and 19th July. We’re delighted to present you with Julien Goupil, Amaury Sports Organization’s (A.S.O.) Media Director, who knows the details of this unique undertaking down to a tack. Our host Laura Meseguer interviewed him yesterday as the ninth guest of the #Ride2Unite livestream series on our IG TV and we are bringing you a few highlights below.

Mr Goupil honed his media and production skills in high-profile areas of the advertising field for several years before moving onto the post of A.S.O.’s Media Director. As the prominent A.S.O. events include the Tour de France, he’s responsible for communicating the event and all that pertains to it to cycling fans and viewers via TV, social media and various other channels. Chatting with him allowed us to pull the curtain on the inner workings and organization of such a prominent race and he and Laura went over the future of cycling races and their excitement factor for the viewer, what difficulties the pro riders face in the virtual environment, what’s the world’s response to the virtual Tour so far, virtual racing popularizing real-world bicycle use and a number of other topics.

Find more about Julien Goupil and the virtualized Tour de France in our previous article.

Julien Goupil joined our livestream swiftly and, for starters, clarified what exactly is his mission regarding the Tour de France per Laura’s first question: “I’m the Media Director so I’m in charge of all the television production and TV distribution and I’m also handling all the digital aspects, the website, the business development and, last but not least, the communication area including social networks, press relations, media partnership and so on.”

As we mentioned above, the first two weekends of the first-ever virtual Tour that is being held on Zwift, a digital cycling platform, are behind us so we are able to get some insights already. Getting straight to the core, Laura was curious how the idea of virtualizing the Grande Boucle came about. According to him, the first point was to realize that July can’t be the Tour de France month this time but that there needs to be some kind of a July event and the second point was to set up a major charity operation, which was extremely important regarding the unfortunate events and crises of the past few months. Mr Goupil was also happy to announce that the first two weekends of the virtual Tour fared well: “To be honest, it has been a big success. We got good feedback from the cycling community, especially the teams and the riders as we gave them some good exposure. […] We also got good feedback from our TV broadcasters, we had twenty of them all over the world and, last but not least, the virtual Tour made a big success with over 80,000 people registering and participating in the event. So that’s a good thing, a good start.” Based on the numbers, the digital aspect also attracted a younger audience than usual.

Virtual Tour de France
Virtual Tour de France is underway

Specifying the numbers, the organizers managed to get 23 professional teams for men’s and 17 teams for the women’s virtual Tour, which is nearly all the teams subsequently participating in the real-life postponed Tour de France in September – something Julien Goupil also deems a great success and a lot of work well invested.

When asked about the greatest challenges one faces when organizing this new format of racing, Julien put it this way: “The most difficult was to find the concept of the race, it really changed over the course of the past few weeks, we couldn’t quite imagine a virtual race as the riders are now training at camps and so on.” How it eventually went down? “We decided to build the concept together with the whole cycling community, the teams and with the riders. This is something very important and I think that was one of the big things to do. The second thing – with everyone in lockdown, it wasn’t so easy to organize a big event like that when you are at home, doing so many calls, that was another challenge. Then we had to choose the right technical partners […] and Zwift clearly were the most consistent, it was a big decision. What’s also very important, to feel the flavour of the Tour within the game, it has been a tough work to get all partners involved and to get good visibility.” After approximately 2 months of planning, troubleshooting, hundreds of phone calls, sleepless nights and scheduling, all was finally set for the inaugural virtual Tour de France to take place.

See our previous, eighth stream with Para-cyclist Jiří Ježek here.