The first Tour de France was organised in 1903 and has run every year since (apart from breaks for the 2 world wars)
It was first started as a way to promote the daily sports newspaper, L'Auto and as a way to out-do their rival publication Le Velo, that at the time was the most popular sports newspaper.
It was the first ever stage race of its kind, and took a route across France taking in the cities of Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Nantes, Toulouse and Paris. The immensely long stages took riders most of the day and night to complete. They had a break in the afternoon before they carried on. From that very first race over 100 years ago, the Tour captured something in the hearts of the French and quickly gained in popularity all over the country. Today it has become as much a part of the French culture as Brie and wine!
The second Tour de France had a few changes made to it. It became apparent after the first tour that rather a lot of cheating and 'foul-play' had taken part by the cover of darkness, so the stages were made shorter, enabling the riders to complete them during daylight hours.
In 1930 the riders began to race for teams rather than as individuals, and as a way of financing the race the Caravan was introduced. Sponsors paid to drive their vans, trucks, motorbikes, and random circus-like vehicles along the course in front of the cycle race. The sponsors paid for the privilege and this helped to fund the race for the teams that took part.
Essentially the Tour has stayed the same, new rules have come and gone, competitions within the race have been introduced, and other countries have hosted different stages. But every year its always a series of time trials and stage races taking in a route across the Pyrenees and the Alps, and finishing on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. The beauty of the race is its tradition that has been built over the years, and its passionate following across the world. For 3 weeks in July France comes to a stand-still and the beautiful country gets to show us is natural beauty and diversity as 100 cyclists speed across along its roads, reminding us why its one of the best places in the world to cycle.
Want to get out on those french roads and see for yourself? visit our cycling training centre http://www.allons-y-pyrenees.com