The birth of the Tour de France
The Tour De France first took place in 1903, with the Dreyfus Affair surprisingly playing a large role. The Le Velo, the largest French sports paper of its day, was strongly pro-Dreyfus. A group of men who were anti-Dreyfus formed the L’Auto magazine to compete against Le Velo. L’Auto struggled in the beginning, so in an effort to boost its sales, it decided to hold a race – the Tour de France.
The race, consisting mainly of French cyclists, was hugely successful. But the race almost didn’t make it past the second year, as the editor of L’Auto nearly put an end to it due to cheating and thuggish behavior. For example, in the 1904 race, fans and even masked men would attack drivers and there was rampant cheating.
Doping and cheating is nothing new
Until a few years ago, there was rampant doping. But actually, doping has been a part of the Tour de France since almost its inception. In fact, not only was there doping, but it was accepted. The reason why so many people have been caught in the past couple of decades is that doping is no longer accepted and drug testing has gotten much better.
Some anti-doping scientists feel that at the height of the doping, as many as 95 percent of the riders in the three major bicycle races including the Tour De France were doping, according to Sportsnet.
The number of stages and miles has varied
Today, the Tour de France has 21 stages and is about 2,200 miles long. But the miles and even the stages have varied throughout the years. For example, the race was as short as 1,509 miles in 1904 and as long as 3,570 miles in 1926. And the earlier races had as little as 6 stages but were much longer. For example, the race in 1903 only had 6 stages but 1,509 miles.
Not always trade teams
Today, almost all of the teams in the Tour de France are professional trade teams, but that has not always been the case. Up until the 1930s, private and amateur riders were allowed to take part. And national teams also participated up until the 1960s. But trade teams have been basically the only participants since then, except for a few wild card teams.
France has dominated
In its long history, the Tour de France has been won by a French person 36 times, by a Belgian 18 times and by a Spaniards 12 times. The US would be fourth on the list, with 11, if not for the disqualifications of Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong. Instead, the US has only three victories, which are good enough for sixth. Four racers, including two French, have won 5 times, and three racers, including one French racer, have won 3 times.
Current state of the race
Thanks to the stringent testing, none of the past 4 winners have tested positive. This has helped draw fans back to the Tour de France and the race is again very popular throughout the world. As long as the Tour de France remains firmly against doping, the race will continue its upward momentum.