Le Tour De France

tour-de-franceThe Tour de France isn’t the same race that it was when it started in 1903. For starters, the bicycles they’re riding now look like space ships compared to the ones they used for the first Tour. The significance, reach, and even how the race is actually raced are all completely different from the inaugural race. Maybe the most disappointing difference between the Tour then and now is the disappearance of those awesome little hats the riders used to wear. But hey, safety first.

The first ever Tour de France was broken up into 6 stages totaling 1,509 miles. 61 riders started the race, each of them paying an entry fee of 10 francs. Only 21 of the 60 competitors actually finished. Maurice Garin was the first ever Tour winner with a finishing time of 94h 33m 14s. His average speed was just under 16 miles per hour. Pretty impressive.

Last year’s Tour covered 2,115 miles in 21 stages. A significant increase in both number of stages and total miles from the very first Tour. However, despite being longer than the inaugural Tour de France by 600 miles, the winner actually finished faster than old Maurice did. Chris Froome finished with a time of 83h 56m 40s, averaging a speed of over 25 miles per hour!

The race has changed considerably over the last century. You might say that the Tour de France has become more refined.

The initial race in 1903 was purely a grueling marathon where determination and sacrificing your body was enough to win it. It was probably like watching two heavy-weight boxers go at it for 12 rounds, the competitors just trying to outlast each other, the winner being whoever wanted it more. The 1903 Tour was mostly French natives with a few exceptions from neighboring European countries.

Today the Tour is still very much an endurance race, but not in the same way it was when it started. The shorter stages allow for more rest, planning, and strategy. Also, with today’s Tour de France you have professional cyclists who do nothing but train for competitive races. They go into the race being coached and having a strategy. There are teams of cyclists from around the globe that compete. They ride super lightweight bicycles made of carbon fiber and have strict diets. In 1903 Garin was quoted saying that his race sustenance came from lots of strong red wine and oysters!

This year’s Tour de France starts July 5th and concludes July 27th. You should get out and ride your bicycle in honor of the 101st (the race wasn’t held during the years of the first and second World Wars) Tour de France. And if you want, drink lots of strong red wine in honor of Maurice Garin!

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