The Tour De France is ranked as the most prestigious and biggest cycling event that takes place each year in France. The event holds a very rich and long history. Tour De France was launched back in 1903. For over a century now, the event has been taking place, with a large number of cyclists from all corners of the globe participating.
How the Tour De France Started
Tour De France began as a very simple event back in 1903. It was actually not intended to be a sporting activity. Rather, it was started as a way of increasing the sale of a local newspaper in the country. However, the major aim of using bicycles in distributing newspapers was to test the endurance of participants. In fact, this remains as the motivating drive even today.
The then leading sports newspaper in France used to make a sale of over 80,000 copies. However, a rivalry came up after the same newspaper published a controversial and contradictory report about the Dreyfus Affair, which happened to divide France at one point. The report angered one of the major rivals, De Dion, who later opted to start his own newspaper. Adolphe Clemet and Edouard Michelin joined De Dion in establishing a rival sport newspaper.
The interesting part is that the pioneers of the rival newspaper appointed Henri Desgrange as the editor. This was interesting in the sense that Henri was along-time cyclist. His approach to making even more sales of their new sports newspaper was using his cycling hobby. De Deon happened to be a fanatic of Henri in his cycling career and also his press history. This is one of the reasons why he considered him for the editor’s post.
At the early stages of L’Auto, the new sports newspaper, it was realized that the sales made were not close to that of its rival. It was for this reason that pioneers and editors of this newspaper converged on 20th November 1902, in order to establish a better way of elevating the sales of L’Auto. It was realized that cycling would aid in this quest. Henri, who happened to be a professional cyclist, made this suggestion. A 6-day long-distance cycling event was suggested with an aim of boosting the sale of L’Auto newspaper. The success of this plan would make the paper viral and also elevate the overall sales.
Tour De France was set to be launched on the 31st day of May 1903 and it would end on the 5th July the same year. The stretch of this race involved 5 stages which were Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes. The participants would finally return to Paris after covering the distance.
However, the launch did not take place as scheduled due to financial and distance challenges. The race was rescheduled again, this time beginning from the 1st to 19th July. Tour De France started on the rescheduled date and since then, the event took place consistently in the years that followed.
The Early Challenges of the Tour De France
The very first participants of this race faced a chain of challenges. Although their mission was not to compete but to sell newspapers, there were so many navigation and financial challenges.
Fixed-gear bicycles were used in the race and this posed a great challenge to cyclists, especially when navigating through hilly terrain. This is one of the reasons that prompted the withdrawal of several cyclists from the race.
Aside from that, cyclists also faced heavy financial challenges. They could not get enough supply of everything that the required during the race.
The major challenge that affected the race was the First and Second world Wars. In fact, the race had to stop for a while during the wars since none of the cyclists had the courage to traverse the country. However, as soon as the World Wars were over, the race rose again and took a very fast progress.
Tour De France was open to any person who wished to participate in cycling. However, this was on condition that participants would not demand anything from the organizers of this race. At the early 1920s, individual cyclists were allowed to enroll independently into Tour De France. Individual participants were referred as Touriste-Routiers.
However, in the early 1930s, individual entrants were no longer allowed to enroll. Instead, regional teams were created. Each interested individual would join a cycling team within their region. The move to establish regional teams was to ensure that all cyclists were covered. The Touriste Routiers gradually disappeared with most of them joining the newly established regional teams. National teams were established later, as the race grew.
As time passed, France De Tour returned to the trade teams. To be precise, the return to trade teams premiered in 1962. One of the main reasons behind this move was the increased cases of doping among cyclists. In fact, tests were eventually introduced to ensure that any cyclist who participates in the race is not under any influence.
A test was done in 1967 and 1968, whereby the national teams were restored. It was, however, realized that challenges were still on, hence prompting a return to trade teams again. Until today, national teams have never returned in Tour De France.
The Modern Tour De France
The cycling race that started over a century ago has undergone massive evolution. Today, Tour De France is recognized as the largest cycling event that takes place every year. A small race that started as a newspaper sale campaign has gradually developed to a craze in the world of sports.
One of the notable developments in Tour De France is the kind of bicycles used. Multiple-gear bicycles are currently being used by cyclists hence making navigation really easy and fast.
In addition, a lot of cyclists from across the globe participate in this cycling event. Unlike in the past where only French Nationals could participate, international cyclists are also eligible.
Tour De France still aims at testing the endurance of cyclists. The race takes place every year and cyclists are expected to cover 3,500 kilometers with over 21 stages. However, the race is no longer a newspaper selling mission, but a profound sports event.