French Tradition: Tour De France

The first ever Tour de France took place on the 1st July 1903. Organised and orchestrated by one man alone, this was to become one of the greatest sporting events of all time and a long upheld and celebrated tradition in France. Géo Lefèvre, a journalist with L’Auto Magazine at the time, came to his editor, Henri Desgrange, with the idea of this epic cycling challenge. After receiving Desgrange’s full backing, plans for the race began to develop and, on the 1st July, sixty cycling enthusiasts set out on their bicycles across the country.

Starting at Montgeron and following six gruelling stages, the last from Nantes to Paris being 471 km, out of the original sixty ‘routiers’ as they are called in French, only twenty-one crossed the finish line.

Such a buzz was created around this event. A mixture of pure astonishment, sympathy and admiration ensued and le Tour brought in a considerable popular following. This cycling race brought towns, villages and mountains into the limelight as crowds formed, eager to see the cyclists pass by. Over time the route has adapted and evolved, making it even more challenging for those who enter. In 1910 mountain routes were added obliging the routiers to climb to the summits of the Pyrenees and in further years to come the race would journey into the Alps, particularly the Col du Galibier.

The famous Yellow Jersey, which still exists today indicating the leader of the race originated in 1919 and was first given to Eugène Christophe in Grenoble. Fun fact: the reason that it is yellow is because it was reminiscent of the colour of paper on which L’Auto magazine was printed!

The Tour de France is renowned in history and acts to unite French people and the entire country. Following the Second World War the Tour that followed was particularly symbolic to France as a unified and driven nation determined to counter the bleak times that had preceded.

In 1985 Bernard Hinault was to join the legends who had won le Tour five times, he remains the last Frenchman to win the Tour de France. Will a Frenchman triumph this year?

This years race kicks off on Saturday 1st July in Dusseldorf. This is a great event to follow in the month of July in France. Wherever you are, le Tour is bound to pass by! So, make sure to head down to see the cyclists whizzing by. Even if you are not a fan of cycling, the buzz and atmosphere of the crowd is not something to be missed!


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