The Tour de France is an annual 3,404 kilometers (2,115 miles) bicycle race, predominantly hosted in France, although occasionally held in surrounding countries. The Tour de France was initiated by a French sports journalist known as Géo Lefèvre, whose passion for peddling inspired him to create the longest and most enduring bicycle race of its time. Beginning with just 60 contestants in 1903, the race has since become the most famous cycling competition in the world, with 22 teams and 198 cyclists.
The First Race
The first ever Tour de France began on July 1, 1903, departing from Montgeron, France, and biking a 2,500 kilometers loop around the country. Of the riders, about 20 were professionals, while the rest were just cycling enthusiasts eager for the challenge of completing the longest and most enduring bicycle race of their time. The winner of the race was a man by the name of Maurice Garin, with only 21 of the 60 participants making it to the finish line.
War Torn France Cancels the Race
Since the inception of the Tour de France, 11 races have been cancelled due to world wars. During World War I, they skipped four races, from 1915 through 1918. It was put on hold again during World War II, from 1939 through 1946. Seven years elapsed before peace had fully been restored to France, and they began the race anew in 1947. In the upcoming race of 2014, the Tour de France intends to commemorate WWI, by beginning the race in Ypres, Belgium, a primary battleground throughout WWII.
Lance Armstrong’s 7 Year Streak
Prolific cyclist, Lance Armstrong, took first place in the Tour de France for 7 consecutive years, from 1999 through 2005. His success was unprecedented, and likely not to be repeated. But unfortunately for Armstrong, as well as his avid fan base, he was later disqualified from every first place title on account of illegally using performance enhancing drugs. In addition to having his first place titles disqualified, he was also banned from ever competing in another professional cycling race.
2003 Tour de France- The 100 Year Anniversary
The 2003 Tour de France marked the 100 year anniversary of the world-renowned race. To celebrate the event, the race departed from Montgeron, France, the same place as the very first bike race. The race followed a similar, but longer route then the initial 1903 race. The 2003 race was awarded with the Prince of Asturias Awards, a notable achievement originating in Spain, which awards organizations for their profound successes in the humanities and sciences.
History: The Birth of the Tour de France, 110 years ago: Cristopher Klein
Le Tour de France: History
Velo News: 100th Tour de France, by the Numbers