Le Tour de France
July 1, 1903 at 14:15 sixty cyclists started from the cafe "Revay-Maten" (Alarm clock) in the southern Paris suburb of Montgeron. Starting the race from the suburbs, rather than from Paris, was a forced decision, as the prefect of the police of the Seine, Louis Lepine banned the race in the capital.
Finish of the first stage was expected in Lyon, the racers were to overcome 467 km of bad roads. Frenchman Maurice Garen passed the distance in 17 hours, 45 minutes and 44 seconds. There was no technical support. Cyclists rode all day and all night. He won in the end in the overall standings of the tour, showing an average speed of 26.5 km / h.
Garen was riding a bicycle with a lowered rudder, was wearing a high-necked sweater, golf pants, leggings to the knees, a cap "airfield" (popular in the Caucasus), with valves for the ears.
The race was so exhausting and difficult that only 21 participants reached the finish in Paris. Racers were sometimes given three days to regain strength and rest. If we offer modern cyclists such a route - for them it will also be a serious test. And then the level of equipment, the construction of bicycles and the state of roads were not compared to what is now.
The first in the history of the Tour consisted of six stages, during which participants had to drive 2,428 km. The route was planned with such account to pass through the major cities of France: Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes and Paris.
The immediate reason for the cycling competition was the rivalry between the two Parisian weeklies - "L'Auto" (Car) and "Le Velo" (Bicycle). The publisher of "L'Auto" Henri Degrange (the publication was the ancestor of the current "L'Equipe"), tried to break into the bicycle market and changed the name of his weekly for "L'Auto-Velo" for this. The competitor sued these actions and won the process. Tour was the answer of Degrange. And here he has not lost. The circulation for the race increased fourfold, to 40,000 copies. Since then, Henri Degrange has always remained a patron and sponsor of the Tour de France. This lasted for 33 years, until retirement in 1936.
A special correspondent for the newspaper, Zheo Lefavre, who was supposed to follow the events, was present only on the departures and arrivals of the riders, traveling between cities by train.
The legendary bike race became possible due to the coincidence of several phenomena: active recreation and sport gained popularity; development of narrow-profile technologies (cable brakes, bicycle transmission / gear shift and rubber tires); media competition.
On the track of one of the first Tour de France
Since then, the Tour de France has changed its route many times. Since 1906 the Tour has captured Alsace five times, but then the German government withdrew the previously issued permission, because the crowd was singing the "Marseillaise". In the mountains, the route ran through the famous Tourmalet passes (2122) in the Pyrenees and Galibier (3242) in the Alpine Savoie, where athletes carried bicycles on their own, scrambling along the goat tracks. From a maximum length of 5000 km in the 30s, it was reduced to 3,700, which are overcome in three weeks, in short stages about 200 km.
The final stage of 1935
The idea to distinguish a leader with a bright T-shirt originated in 1913, when Degrange ran into a roadside shop and bought the first maillot jaune that came to his eyes - a "yellow jersey". The colors of the leader were associated with the newspaper sponsored by Tour (which had yellow pages).
A three-minute video of the events that accompanied the first ever Tour de France:
[Channel on youtube - Pratiks]
After the First World War, the Tour de France became an international competition. Belgian, Italian and Spanish cyclists often competed with the French for the title and crowded them. Such famous racers as Jacques Anquetil (victories in 1957, 1961/64), Eddie Merckx (1969/72, 1974) or Miguel Indurain (1991/95) won Tour five times and had no less admirers than football stars.
In our time, the Tour de France is the leading highway race, one of three grand tours (together with the Italian Giro d'Italia and the Spanish Vuelta). This is the most famous and prestigious competition in professional cycling. The unofficial name is "The Big Loop".