It’s hard to imagine a world without the Tour de France, it seems as though the epic race around France has always been in existence, but like all over things, it had to start somewhere.
That somewhere was in the hands of Henri Desgrange and Géo Lefèvre, two key figures in the cycling world at the turn of the century; Desgrange a world-record track cyclist and both him and Lefèvre sports journalists. Desgrane and Lefèvre both worked at the sports publication L’Auto, and it was whilst working here that the two founders conjured up the idea of one tour to rule them all.
The Tour de France, aimed to leave previous bicycle races looking feeble and mundane, with Paris-Brest-Paris being the only contender. Desgrane and Lefèvre purposefully set out to out-do the P-B-P as it was known, as it was rival magazine’s – Le Petit Journal – race.
When riders were faced with the porposition of entering a 3 week race, they suddenly fell hesitant with worries of funding three weeks travelling and the sheer physciality of the feat. After some re-jigging and re-organising, the founders lowered the entry fee and upped the winner’s prize.
On the start line, only sixty riders turned up, and Maurice Garin took the first stage, which was a whopping 467km from Paris to Lyon. The rest of the race continued in a similar fashion, with riders pushing themselves to their physical and mental limits, starting a 100-year-old tradition without knowing it.