The first ever Tour de France took place way back in 1903 and since then has been held annually except during the war years that is. The bike race covers an amazing amount ground and those competing in it travel 3,600 kilometres through France and other nearby countries. It is a true test of endurance with mountain routes that really do take their toll on many riders.
The race is actually staged in day-long runs which are referred to as ‘stages’ but the whole race lasts three weeks in total. Riders from all over the world enter this prestigious race in the hope of winning the yellow jersey. At each stage of the race the person who has the lowest time of the day gets to wear this shirt and at the end of the race which is always in central Paris, the overall winner gets to keep the prized yellow shirt along with substantial prize money. The actual course for the Tour De France changes every year, but the finish is always in the same place, on the glorious Champs Elysees. The final run is a very exciting affair with crowds lining the boulevard cheering the winning rider and his followers on.
The historical significance of the Tour de France is really very interesting. It can be traced back as far as the Dreyfus Affair which was an event that divided France at the end of the nineteenth century. A soldier of the French army had been convicted on selling secrets to the Germans but was later exonerated of this treasonable offence. However, the whole affair caused serious riots throughout the country. The turmoil over opinions of whether or not the soldier was guilty or not ended up in a mini riot at the race course of Auteuil in Paris in 1899, where a gentleman called Jules-Albert de Dion struck the French President over the head with his walking stick. Dion was of the opinion that Dreyfus was indeed guilty. French newspapers were reporting all sorts of stories which displeased many factions of the population. Dion was furious at one particular article written about him in a prominent newspaper of the day called Le Velo. This led him to start his own newspaper to rival the opinion of it. This culminated in a new paper being formed called the L’Auto.
The editor of this newspaper was a keen and very prominent cyclist. He owned the Velodrome at the Parc des Princes and his name was Henri Desgrange. So it was that the first ever Tour de France was born, a few years later in 1903. The race started in Paris and went down to Lyon, then Marseille as well as Nantes before finally returning to Paris. However, as the race got longer, the cost and strain of it proved too much for many people and only 15 competitors entered the race. It was decided to make the race shorter in days and they changed the dates of it from May to July offering a daily reward of five francs a day to all riders in the first fifty who has previously won less than the sum of 200 francs but who had also averaged a minimum of 20 km/h through all the stages. With prize money at the end more riders were tempted to take part and the race has not looked back since.
Today the Tour de France is one of the most prestigious bike races in the world, with many competitors from all over the globe all rivalling each other for the yellow jersey. There are has been many of scandals surrounding the race over the years with riders cheating in one way or another, which is why some riders resort to these tactics as it remains one of the most coveted cycle races to win.