The Tour de France, the undisputed king of cycling competitions, this year celebrates its 100th race.
The race was first organised in 1903 by L’Auto newspaper, whose editor Henri Desgrange, a fan of cycling and owner of velodrome at the Parc des Princes, had been appointed to boost circulation and compete with the country’s leading sports paper, Le Velo.
His cycling writer Geo Lefevre suggested the concept of a six-day road race beginning and ending in Paris, with stages held in Lyons, Marseille, Bordeaux and Nantes. The suggestion was an immediate hit.
Now, 110 years on, the tour is a major production ranging across France and neighbouring countries. The distance covered is about 3,200 kilometres, with 21 stages averaging 150 kilometres. Up to 22 teams of nine riders compete in each timed stage. At the end of each stage, riders’ finishing times are compounded to determine their overall time. The rider with the lowest aggregate at the end of a stage is the leader of the race and gets to wear the coveted yellow jersey of the “general classification”.
Points are awarded to the first five finishers in every stage; the “points classification” leader at the end of each stage is awarded a green jersey. The “king of the mountains” jersey goes to the first rider to top designated hills and mountains. The white jersey of the “young rider classification” is determined by the same time aggregation as the yellow jersey, but is limited to riders 26 and under. Only four riders have won both jerseys in the same year. In time trials, each team rides alone. The team time is taken from the fifth rider to finish.
The country with most winners is France (36) but it hasn’t had a winner since 1986. – Blake Moretti
Top photo, of riders in the Pyrenees stage of the race, from Bas Kers (NL)’s Flickr photostream.