The Tour De France: Then And Now

Published July 25, 2015
Updated December 5, 2017

During the Tour de France, around 200 cyclists from 22 teams pedal through the French countryside in an attempt to win one of the world’s most difficult sporting competitions.

Covering an impossible 2,087 miles that are broken down into 21 different stages, the Tour de France is a beast of a race, which is why it remains the pinnacle of a cyclist’s career. Of course, the race has changed drastically over the past century. From absurd rules to unsafe conditions, we take you from the Tour’s dandy-looking past to its doped-up present:

Tour de France In 1904

Though Hippolyte Aucouturier won the 1904 Tour de France, he was suspected of cheating. Source: ESPN

Tour de France Vintage Photos

A photo of the 1906 Tour de France. Source: Wikipedia

The first Tour de France took place in 1903. Created by journalist Geo Lefevre, the international race was meant to draw more readers to his sports publication, L’Auto.

While most of the inaugural race’s 60 cyclists were from France, there was a sprinkling of other nationalities competing for the prize of 50,000 francs. Unlike today’s riders, early competitors were forced to cycle massive stretches each day—around 250 miles—that often forced them to ride late into the night.

Tour de France Photographs

A spectator pours water on a cyclist in the 1953 race. Source: Mirror

In the early days of the Tour de France, cheating was a given. In 1904, fans formed a human blockade to slow down certain cyclists, and other competitors lined the roads with tacks, broken glass and other obstacles. Years later, a few cyclists were suspended for taking the train.

Cycling Race 1958

Source: ESPN

All That's Interesting
A New York-based publisher established in 2010, All That's Interesting brings together subject-level experts in history, true crime, and science to share stories that illuminate our world.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.