The Tour de France has a rich heritage and has managed to continue despite war and conflict. Over 100 years of tradition makes the Tour de France what it is today. Historically speaking, this great race has had its ups and downs, triumphs and squabbles.
According to tourdefrancehistory.com, Geo Lefevre decided to use the bicycle to race in 1903. The bicycle had only recently been invented, less than two decades earlier in 1885. Lefevre, at the time was a journalist for L’Auto publication. Basically the Tour de France was a great way to sell newspapers and gain more readers for L’Auto. With backing from his manager, Desgrange (who was at first cold to the idea), the first ‘Great Race’ took place on July 1st of 1903 when 60 bicyclists took their places at Montgeron. While the first Tour de France could be considered a great marketing tool for L’Auto, the Tour de France of today, while still a marketing tool has become so much more.
The popularity of the race grew year by year and it wasn’t necessarily because of the accomplishments of the athletes. Often, crowds have been attracted to the Tour de France to witness the shameful behavior of the participants. Everyone likes a good scandal and that was often the case among competitors.
According to the Herald Sun, in 1904, four riders were disqualified after being accused of accepting rides in cars. As a result, participants were required to pass through stations where their hand would be stamped; proving that they had ridden the entire way. Another shocking event occurred in 1967 when Tom Simpson died during the race. There was a debate over the cause of death; some said sunstroke, while others blamed drugs and alcohol. Recently, Lance Armstrong openly admitted to using steroids and had all seven of his wins/titles stripped from him.
During World War l, the Tour de France was temporarily shut down in 1914. When it was reopened in 1919, over 50 of the competitors had been killed due to the war. World War ll brought an end to the Tour de France for six years. Apparently, the Germans proposed that the race continue on despite the war, but that would not be the case, according to tourdefrance.com . From 1940 to 1946 Jacques Goddet, the organizer, refused to continue with race despite pressure from the Germans( Herald Sun). I imagine that took a great deal of bravery, as the Nazi’s means of persuasion were terrifying.
Triumph of the Human Spirit:
Despite war, internal conflicts, scandal, and shame, the Tour de France has survived and become a true testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Courage, sacrifice, pain, joy, elation, and sheer determination are clearly written across the faces of the competitors. The Tour de France will continue; hopefully for another 100 years.