The Tour de France is a multi stage cycling race held each year in France (although the race sometimes passes through surrounding countries). The Tour de France is the oldest and most prestigious cycling event in the world and winning the title is considered to be the pinnacle for road cyclists. The modern event is held over 23 days with 21 segments and covers about 3,200 km (2,000 miles). The route is different each year and alternates between anticlockwise and clockwise routes around France. There are about 22 teams competing in the event each year and each team has 9 riders. The stages are timed and the winner of the event is the rider who completes the entire course in the fastest time. The leading rider wears the yellow jersey and this is also awarded to the winner of the event. The winner is also given about 500,000 Euros in prize money. Let’s find out how this event started and who won the inaugural Tour de France.
History of the First Tour de France?
The Tour de France was created in 1903 as a way to increase the sales of the newspaper L’Auto (now L’Équipe). The first tour was originally going to be more than a month long with overnight stages finishing the next afternoon but, partly due to a lack of competitors, it was scaled back to a 19 day event to start on July 1, 1903. It is believed that about 80 entrants started the race, but many failed to finish. The competitors began in the village of Montgeron and the riders circled France in a clockwise direction for the finish in Paris 19 days later. The course covered 2,428 km (1,509 miles), but unlike modern tours it was mostly flat. The event was comprised of just 6 stages of more than 400 km (250 mi) (compared to about 171 km today) and the competitors had a rest day after each stage.
Who won the First Tour de France?
The race was won by Italian born Frenchman Maurice Garin with a time of 94 hours 33 minutes and 14 seconds. He completed the route with an average speed of 25.678 km/h (15.956 mph). The second place winner, Lucien Pothier, finished almost 3 hours behind Garin! He was awarded 6,075 francs for his win and he bought a gas station with his winnings where he worked for the rest of his life! He also won the Tour de France in 1904, but he was later disqualified for cheating. The 1904 tour was almost the last ever held because of the many claims of cheating (among many of the claims some of the cyclists were accused of taking trains during the event!)
Did you know?
Garin became a professional in strange circumstances. He decided to enter a race at Avesnes-sur-Helpes, which was 25 km from where he lived, only to discover it was only for professionals. He was refused a place in the race, but he waited until the race has begun and then he raced after them. He managed to pass all of the racers and win the event. The officials refused to acknowledge the win, but the crowd raised double the prize money for him!