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:
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.
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.