Tour de France has established itself as the most demanding and prestigious cycling race in the world. This is at it currently attract’s the best cyclists and cycling teams from across the globe. The race has been around for close to 120 years, except during the World Wars, as it was launched in 1903. The first race occurred between 31st May and 5th July of that year and comprised of 5 stages starting in Paris and passing through Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, and Nantes and looping back to Paris.
From rivalry to greatness
This legendary cycling event was born from the emerging rivalry of two sports newspapers in France. They were Le Vello, which had made a name for itself as the pioneering and industry-leading sports magazine, and L’Auto, which was the new kid on the block having been set up by ambitious journalists and entrepreneurs. The Dreyfus Affair was at the center of their rivalry as the two disagree on the matter. In late 1902, a junior executive at L’Auto, the underdog, suggested a six-day cycling event to help the company boost its newspaper sales. The following year, in1903, the first Tour de France race was held, and it’s today one of the most remarkable sporting events globally.
A treacherous three-week race
Tour de France is majorly held in France, though some stages have occurred in Italy, Belgium, Spain, and Germany over the last couple of decades. In 2007, the opening stage of the race was hosted by England. The course usually covers about 3,600 km, with roughly 20 professional cycling teams participating for three weeks. Each team typically has 9 riders.
The racecourse encompasses massive stretches of mountainous inclines designed to test the athletes’ endurance supremacy. There are also expansive flatlands for the cyclists to push the limits of their speed and steep declines with sharp corners to put to trial their agility. The distinguished cyclists who maintain top performance in both climbing races and time trials get to wear the Maillot Jaune (yellow jersey) of victory as they finish the race in Paris.
A France’s world-class annual event, Tour de France attracts millions of fans from around the world to the roadsides to cheer for their favorite contenders. Hundreds of millions more watch the event live through TV broadcasts around the world.
The greatest cyclists to ever win Tour de France
The hall of fame of this prestigious cycling event is made up of all the cyclists that have ever won the event since it started. Out of all of the winners, those who are most celebrated are the ones who emerged victorious in five Tours. They are;
- Jacques Anquetil from France won the Tour in 1957, and between 1961 and 1964
- Eddy Merckx from Belgium, who was victorious from 1969 to 1972 and in 1974
- Bernard Hinault from France, who bagged victory in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1985
- Miguel Indurain from Spain, who won the Tour between 1991 and 1995
Other notable names are cyclists who emerged victorious after cycling the longest distances in the event’s history. They are;
- Lucien Buysse from Belgium in 1926 at 5,745km
- Firmin Lambot from Belgium in 1919 at 5,560 km
- Phillip Thys from Belgium in 1920 at 5,519 km
Tour de France milestones and challenges
This trailblazing global cycling event has surpassed numerous milestones through the years to become what it is today. From its inception to 1930, the bicycle manufacturers were its main sponsors when the region and national teams were introduced to the race. Today, Tour de France enjoys sponsorships from some of the world’s biggest brands from across industries.
Over the last two decades, one of the biggest challenges for Tour de France has been performance-enhancing drugs like EPO erythropoietin and steroids like testosterone. The 2006 American winner, Floyd Landis, tested positive for testosterone and was stripped of his titles. Several teams have withdrawn from the race after their cyclist tested positive for doping.