The Tour de France is one of the most important and prestigious bike races in the world. Taking place in France and these days often in neighbouring countries. The first race took place in 1903 and its been held every year ever since, with the exception of the war years when it was put on hold.
In 1903 the race took place over six rather flat stages, although not mountainous they were much longer stages than today’s races, more than double the distance riders go today.In that first race 60 cyclists, all professionals or semi-professionals, started and Maurice Garin, who was the favourite to win, proved the pundits right and took the prize. He also won in 1904 but was disqualified along with eight other riders for cheating including the illegal use of cars and trains.
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Tour de France winners – the facts
France has had more winners than any other country (36) but has not had an overall win since 1985.
The record for the most number of Tour de France wins was held by Lance Armstrong (7 wins) but he was stripped of his titles in 2012 due to allegations of performance enhancing drugs being involved. The title has not been awarded to any other rider – the ICU (International Cycling Union) have confirmed that there will be no winner for the “Armstrong years” (1999-2005).
Four cyclists who have won the Tour de France five or more times:
Jacques Anquetil – France (1957 and 1961-1964)
Eddy Merckx – Belgium (1969-1972 and 1974) – won King of the Mountains, the combination classification, combative award, the points competition AND the Tour in 1969 – his first year of participation.
Bernard Hinault – France (1978-1979, 1981-1982, and 1985)
Miguel Indurain – Spain (1991-1995), the first competitor to win five consecutive races
What makes a Tour de France winner?
The person who ends up with the shortest overall accumulated race times throughout the 3 week long, more than 3000 kilometre race is declared the individual winner.
Accumulated timings take into consideration deductions for winning sprints held at several sites along the route each day, as well as deductions for the first three finishers of each stage.
Read about the Tour De France jerseys
Tour de France – a potted history
1903 – The Tour de France is created by Henri Desgrange – a reporter and cyclist
1903 – The first winner of the Tour de France – Maurice Garin of France
1904 – Twelve riders, including the previous year’s winner Maurice Garin and all the stage winners, were disqualified for various reasons including illegal use of cars and trains
1937 – The Belgian team pulled out when they considered the French rider Roger Lapébie had been punished too lightly for being towed uphill by car.
1978 – Riders went slowly at one stage and walked across the line at the end of the day to protest at having to get up early to ride more than one stage in a day
1999-2005 – Lance Armstrong wins seven times in a row
2012 – Bradley Wiggins wins the Tour de France, a first for a British rider; Lance Armstrong stripped of his titles
2003 – 2013 Tour de France 100th Anniversary, but not the 100th race – Le Tour was cancelled 11 times during both World Wars.