• Kurtis Tatkenhorst

July 1- The First Ever Tour de France Begins

Updated: May 4, 2021

1903- On this day in Sports History, the first ever Tour de France race began at Montgeron, a suburb of Paris, France. The Tour de France is the most prestigious road cycling race in the world where the best cyclers ride around France in a multi-stage event. Cycling is a much more popular sport in Europe than the United States as the race has a majority of Europeans competing. Today, the race consists of 21 stages over 23 days with each stage being about 150 miles. The winner of the Tour de France is whoever earns the most combined points from each stage’s finish. The 2019 Tour winner received $556,000 in prize money. Ever since this day in 1903, the Tour de France has millions of people each year in July follow the race to see who comes out on top.

The Tour de France was created by Geo Lefevre, a journalist who wanted to use the race to help boost his daily sports newspaper that was struggling. The first race was a 1,500 mile loop around the country of France and was divided up into six stages. This meant that each stage would be about 250 miles long, way longer than the length of each stage today. The riders also did not have the benefit of being in teams to help support them. They were also riding on unpaved roads, were responsible for their own bicycle repairs, and could not receive any help from support cars. The race was the ultimate endurance test for cyclists.

The first stage of the race began on this day in 1903 with 60 cyclists competing, most of them being from France. The race lasted through the night with the first rider, Maurice Garin coming across the finish line 17 hours after they started. There were 23 riders who abandoned the race during this first stage.

Garin would go on to win the final sixth stage and the whole Tour de France to be the Tour’s first ever champion. The race was definitely a success as it was extremely popular and Geo Lefevre’s newspaper’s sales significantly increased.

ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES

One problem began with the race that has stuck with the Tour still today is cheating. The 1904 Tour was especially bad with four riders being disqualified, including Maurice Garin. Riders were accused of getting rides from cars in the dark and receiving illegal help, such as food from outsiders. Although the Tour de France remains an annual prestige race that attracts millions of viewers each year, it still can’t escape the cheating scandals.



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Sources:

Klein, Christopher. “The Birth of the Tour De France, 110 Years Ago.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 28 June 2013

Yost, Stephen. “A Complete Guide to Understanding the Tour De France.” Men's Journal, 5 Dec. 2019



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