The Tour de France is an annual event where cyclists must endure a grueling journey (approximately 2,500 miles) split into multiple stages. Here’s a quick look at the history of the Tour de France.
The Tour de France was originally created as a publicity stunt to keep a new startup newspaper, the L’ Auto, from becoming a failure while also causing its main competitor, Le Velo, to go bankrupt. The idea was first pitched by a young journalist named Geo Lefevre and soon led Henri Desgrange, a cyclist enthusiast and editor of the paper, to become the first organizer of the Tour de France. Numerous other sports-focused paper companies held their own races, but they were nothing compared to the length and prizes of the race Desgrange had envisioned. The race consisted of six stages and were often extremely long distances, which caused the stages to start so early that it would be dark outside. Unfortunately, cheaters took advantage of this and the race course was modified in future years to happen during the daytime only. The race was a true success over the years and L’ Auto managed to distribute more copies of their publications than ever and successfully drove Le Velo to bankruptcy. L’ Auto still exists today under the new name of L’ Equipe.
World War 1 and the 1919 Tour de France
The 1919 Tour de France was the first Tour to occur after World War I. Unfortunately, the war had claimed many lives and had soured the economies of most major economic powers. Previous winners’ lives had been claimed by the war among the millions of casualties and the previous race sponsors could not support their teams. Many of the cyclists were unfit, which lead to only ten cyclists of the 67 who started the race to finish. It is notable, however, that the yellow jersey was introduced in the 1919 race to help journalists distinguish the race leader. There’s no exact reason as to why yellow was the chosen color, but some theories are that the L’ Auto newspaper’s paper was colored yellow, and also that the color yellow was an unpopular color during the war so it was widely available. The jersey was met with criticism from fellow riders but is now coveted by riders aplenty today.