Origins of the Tour de France

  • © L'Équipe

    © L'Équipe

Origins of the Tour de France fr

The Tour de France is one of the most popular sporting events in the world.

The race was born in 1903, stemming from a rivalry between two sports journals. The winner of the first race was Maurice Garin of France, who remains the record holder for the biggest gap between the winning time and the runner-up (2 hours, 49 minutes and 21 seconds) in the general classification. Beginning as a largely French affair, the Tour quickly became more international, highlighting champions from around the world, from Fausto Coppi to Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain and Greg LeMond.

As a popular and very public event, the Tour presents a wonderful occasion to experience the natural beauty of France throughout her territory.

Though the Tour has certainly changed since it originated, the same atmosphere is still present today throughout its route, which continues to inspire the dreams of champions and amateurs alike. As a legendary event, the race provides an experience of France that delights the public. France created the Tour, but wth the international reputation it has today, to follow the race is also to discover France!

France is also an ideal playground for professional cyclists. No matter a racer’s athletic abilities, there are many opportunities to find one’s time to shine during the 3 week course.

Racers with more imposing physiques can show their strengths while sprinting towards the end of stages as well as during long, flat stretches. And as far as those with smaller builds, their skills will shine while biking the mountainous terrain of the Alps and the Pyrénées.

The race's passes and their legends

The Tour de France's high-altitude stages are perhaps most responsible for its legendary repuatation. Take for example the Alpe d'Huez, whose name alone evokes the memory of riders struggling to tackle its 13.8 km ascent, which contains 21 bends and has an altitude change of roughly 14% at each step, 8% on average.The Alpe d'Huez will certainly be a highlight of this year's race as well, with a double ascent.

Mont-Ventoux, a climb that seems to stretch to the moon, has also been a legendary point of the Tour since 1967. This was the year when British cyclist Tom Simpson, fatigued and dehydrated, tragically passed away while ascending Mont-Ventoux when he was 2 km away from the summit. Today, a memorial exists in his honor close to the location of his death.

National teams at the Tour's origins

While today cycling teams have commercial sponsors, this was not always the case. In fact, the Tour was biked by national teams from 1930-1961, and again from 1967-1968. Regional groups also participated in 1939 and from 1947-1961.

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