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Tour de France
Tour de France logo.svg
Race details
Date 4 to 26 July 2009
Region France and nearby countries
Local name(s) Le Tour de France
Nickname(s) La Grande Boucle
Discipline Road
Competition Professional
Type Stage race (Grand Tour)
Organiser ASO
Race director Christian Prudhomme
History
First edition 1903
Editions 96 (2009)
First winner  Maurice Garin (FRA)
Most wins  Lance Armstrong (USA) (7) 1999–2005
Most recent  Alberto Contador (ESP)

The Tour de France is an annual bicycle race that covers approximately 3,500 kilometres (2,200 mi) throughout France and bordering countries. The race lasts three weeks and attracts cyclists from around the world. The race is broken into day-long segments, called stages. Individual times to finish each stage are totalled to determine the overall winner at the end of the race. The rider with the lowest aggregate time at the end of each day wears a yellow jersey.[1] The course changes every year but it has always finished in Paris. Since 1975, the climax of the final stage has been along the Champs-Élysées. The Tour de France is the most well known and prestigious of cycling's three "Grand Tours". The other two Grand Tours are the Giro d'Italia (Italy) held every May and the Vuelta a España (Spain) held every August–September.

Contents

Description

The Tour de France is a bicycle race known around the world. It typically has 21 days, or stages, of racing and covers not more than 3,500 kilometres (2,200 mi).[2] The shortest Tour was in 1904 at 2,420 kilometres (1,500 mi), the longest in 1926 at 5,745 kilometres (3,570 mi).[3] The three weeks usually include two rest days, sometimes used to transport riders from a finish in one town to the start in another.[4] The race alternates between clockwise and counterclockwise circuits of France. The first counterclockwise circuit was in 1913.[5] The New York Times said the "Tour de France is arguably the most physiologically demanding of athletic events." The effort was compared to "running a marathon several days a week for nearly three weeks", while the total elevation of the climbs was compared to "climbing three Everests."[6]

The 2004 Tour rides the Champs Élysées

The number of teams usually varies between 20 to 22, with nine riders in each. Entry is by invitation to teams chosen by the race organiser, the Amaury Sport Organisation. Team members help each other and are followed by managers and mechanics in cars.

Riders are judged by the time each has taken throughout the race, a ranking known as the general classification. There may be time deductions for finishing well in a daily stage or being first to pass an intermediate point. It is possible to win without winning a stage, as Greg LeMond did in 1990. There are subsidiary competitions (see below), some with distinctive jerseys for the best rider.

Riders normally start together each day, with the first over the line winning, but some days are ridden against the clock by individuals or teams. The overall winner is usually a master of the mountains and of these time trials. Most stages are in mainland France, although since the 1960s it has become common to visit nearby countries.[7] Stages can be flat, undulating or mountainous. Since 1975 the finish has been on the Champs-Élysées in Paris; from 1903 to 1967 the race finished at the Parc des Princes stadium in western Paris and from 1968 to 1974 at the Piste Municipale south of the capital.[8]

Origins

The roots of the Tour de France can be traced to the Dreyfus Affair, a cause célèbre which divided France at the end of the 19th century over the innocence of Alfred Dreyfus, a soldier convicted – though later exonerated – of selling military secrets to the Germans. Opinions became heated and there were demonstrations by both sides. One was what the historian Eugen Weber called "an absurd political shindig" at the Auteuil horse-race course in Paris in 1899.[9] Among those involved was Comte Jules-Albert de Dion, the owner of the De Dion-Bouton car works, who believed Dreyfus was guilty.[10] De Dion served 15 days in jail and was fined 100 francs for his role at Auteuil,[11] which included striking Émile Loubet, the president of France, on the head with a walking stick.[9][10][12]

The incident at Auteuil, said Weber, was "tailor-made for the sporting press." The first and the largest daily sports newspaper in France was Le Vélo,[13] which sold 80,000 copies a day.[14] Its editor, Pierre Giffard, thought Dreyfus innocent. He reported the arrest in a way that displeased de Dion, who was so angry that he joined other anti-Dreyfusards such as Adolphe Clément and Edouard Michelin and opened a rival daily sports paper, L'Auto.[15]

The new newspaper appointed Henri Desgrange as editor. He was a prominent cyclist and owner with Victor Goddet of the velodrome at the Parc des Princes.[16] De Dion knew him through his cycling reputation, through the books and cycling articles that he had written, and through press articles he had written for the Clément tyre company.

Birth

L'Auto was not the success its backers wanted. Stagnating sales lower than the rival it was intended to surpass led to a crisis meeting on 20 November 1902 on the middle floor of L'Auto's office at 10 rue du faubourg Montmartre in Paris. The last to speak was the most junior there, the chief cycling journalist, a 26-year-old named Géo Lefèvre.[17] Desgrange had poached him from Giffard's paper.[18] Lefèvre suggested a six-day race of the sort popular on the track but all around France.[18] Long-distance cycle races were a popular means to sell more newspapers but nothing of the length that Lefèvre suggested had been attempted.[19] If it succeeded, it would help L'Auto match its rival and perhaps put it out of business.[20] It could, as Desgrange said, "nail Giffard's beak shut."[21][22] Desgrange and Lefèvre discussed it after lunch. Desgrange was doubtful but the paper's financial director, Victor Goddet, was enthusiastic. He handed Desgrange the keys to the company safe and said: "Take whatever you need."[23] L'Auto announced the race on 19 January 1903.

First Tour de France

The first Tour de France was staged in 1903. The plan was a five-stage race from 31 May to 5 July, starting in Paris and stopping in Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Nantes before returning to Paris. Toulouse was added later to break the long haul across southern France from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Stages would go through the night and finish next afternoon, with rest days before riders set off again. But this proved too daunting and the costs too great for most[24] and only 15 entered. Desgrange had never been wholly convinced and he came close to dropping the idea.[25] Instead, he cut the length to 19 days, changed the dates to 1 July to 19 July, and offered a daily allowance of five francs to any rider in the first 50 who had won less than 200 francs[25][26] and who had averaged at least 20 km/h on all the stages.[27] That was what a rider would have expected to earn each day had he worked in a factory.[28] He also cut the entry fee from 20 to 10 francs and set the first prize at 12,000 francs and the prize for each day's winner at 3,000 francs. The winner would thereby win six times what most workers earned in a year.[28] That attracted between 60 and 80 entrants – the higher number may have included serious inquiries and some who dropped out – among them not just professionals but amateurs, some unemployed, some simply adventurous.[17]

Desgrange seems not to have forgotten the Dreyfus Affair that launched his race and raised the passions of his backers. He announced his new race on 1 July 1903 by citing the writer Émile Zola, whose open letter in which every paragraph started" J'accuse ..." led to Dreyfus's acquittal. Establishing the florid style which he used henceforth, Desgrange wrote:

With the wide and powerful gesture that Zola lends to his ploughman in La Terre, L'Auto, a journal of ideas and action, is about to send out over France those tough and uncomplicated sowers of strength, the great professional roadsters.

He continued:

From Paris to the blue waves of the Mediterranean, from Marseille to Bordeaux, passing along the roseate and dreaming roads sleeping under the sun, across the calm of the fields of the Vendée, following the Loire, which flows on still and silent, our men are going to race madly, unflaggingly.
[31]

The first Tour de France started almost outside the Café Reveil-Matin at the junction of the Melun and Corbeil roads in the village of Montgeron. It was waved away by the starter, Georges Abran, at 3:16 p.m. on 1 July 1903. L'Auto – which hadn't featured the race on its front page that morning[32][33] – reported:

The men waved their hats, the ladies their umbrellas. One felt they would have liked to touch the steel muscles of the most courageous champions since antiquity. Who will carry off the first prize, entering the pantheon where only supermen may go?
[34]

Among the competitors were the eventual winner, Maurice Garin, his well-built rival Hippolyte Aucouturier, the German favourite Josef Fischer, and a collection of adventurers including one competing as "Samson".[35]

The race finished on the edge of Paris at Ville d'Avray, outside the Restaurant du Père Auto, before a ceremonial ride into Paris and several laps of the Parc des Princes. Garin dominated the race, winning the first and last two stages, at 25.68 km/h. The last rider, Millocheau, finished 64h 47m 22s behind him.

'Last' Tour

Such was the passion that the first Tour created in spectators and riders that Desgrange said the second would be the last. Cheating was rife and riders were beaten up by rival fans as they neared the top of the col de la République, sometimes called the col du Grand Bois, outside St-Étienne. The historian Bill McGann said:

Desgrange and Lefèvre had a tiger by the tail ... It was a strange Tour and no one is sure exactly what happened. Because the stages were so long, the riders were required to ride at night. Even with Desgrange's men doing what they could to watch the race, cheating was easy. Some were accused of hopping in a car. Others took trains. Moreover, Desgrange's race had lit fires of passion among racing fans that would almost be the ruin of the race.
[36]

The leading riders, including the winner Maurice Garin, were disqualified, although it took the Union Vélocipèdique de France until 30 November to make the decision.[37] McGann says the UVF waited so long "well aware of the passions aroused by the race."[38]

Desgrange's opinion of the fighting and cheating showed in the headline of his reaction in L'Auto: THE END. He wrote:

The Tour de France has just finished and its second edition will, I fear, be the last. It will have died of its own success, of the blind passions which have been unleashed, of the abuse and of the suspicions that have come from ignorant and ill-intentioned people. And yet, however, it seemed to us and it still seems that we had built, with this great event, the most durable and the most imposing monument to cycle sport. We had hoped to each year bring a little more sport across the greater part of France. The results of last year showed that our reasoning was correct and here we are at the end of the second Tour de France, sickened and discouraged, having lived through these three weeks of the worst slander and abuse.
[39]

Desgrange's despair did not last. By the following spring he was planning another Tour, longer at 11 stages rather than six -and this time all in daylight to make any cheating more obvious.[40] Stages in 1905 began between 3am and 7:30am.[41]

The race captured the imagination. L'Auto's circulation rose from 25,000 to 65,000;[17] by 1908 it was a quarter of a million, and during the 1923 Tour 500,000. The record claimed by Desgrange was 854,000 during the 1933 Tour.[42] Le Vélo went out of business.

Early rules

Desgrange and his Tour invented bicycle stage racing.[43] Desgrange experimented with judging by elapsed time[44] and then from 1906 to 1912 by points for placings each day.[45][46] He allowed riders to have personal pacers on the last stage in 1903 and on the first and last stages in 1905.[47]

Desgrange stood against the use of multiple gears and for many years insisted riders use wooden rims, fearing the heat of braking while coming down mountains would melt the glue that held the tyres (they were finally allowed in 1937).[48]

From 1936 there were as many as three stages in a single day.[49]

His dream was a race of individuals. He invited teams but until 1925 forbade their members to pace each other.[50] He then went the other way and from 1927 to 1929[51] ran the Tour as a giant team time-trial, with teams starting separately with members pacing each other. He demanded that riders mend their bicycles without help and that they use the same bicycle from start to end. Exchanging a damaged bicycle for another was allowed only in 1923.[52]

He at first allowed riders who dropped out one day to continue the next for daily prizes but not the overall prize. He allowed teams who lost members in the team time-trial years to recruit fresh replacements.

Above all, Desgrange conducted a campaign against the sponsors, bicycle factories, which he was sure were undermining the spirit of a Tour de France of individuals. In 1930 he insisted that competitors ride plain yellow bicycles that he would provide, without a maker's name.[53]

Touriste-routiers and regionals

The first Tours were open to whoever wanted to compete. Most riders were in teams which looked after them. The private entrants were called touriste-routiers – tourists of the road – from 1923[52] and were allowed to take part provided they make no demands on the organisers. Some of the Tour's most colourful characters have been touriste-routiers. One finished each day's race and then performed acrobatic tricks in the street to raise the price of a hotel.

There was no place for individuals in the post-1930s teams and so Desgrange created regional teams, generally from France, to take in riders who would not otherwise have qualified. The original touriste-routiers mostly disappeared but some were absorbed into regional teams.

National teams

The first Tours were for individuals and members of sponsored teams. There were two classes of race, one for the aces, the other for the rest, with different rules.[54] By the end of the 1920s, however, Desgrange believed he could not beat what he believed were the underhand tactics of bike factories.[55][56] When the Alcyon team contrived to get Maurice De Waele to win even though he was sick,[57] he said "My race has been won by a corpse" and in 1930 admitted only teams representing their country or region.[57][58]

National teams contested the Tour until 1961.[59] The teams were of different sizes. Some nations had more than one team and some were mixed in with others to make up the number. National teams caught the public imagination but had a snag: that riders might normally have been in rival trade teams the rest of the season. The loyalty of riders was sometimes questionable, within and between teams.

Return of trade teams

Riders in national teams wore the colours of their country and a small cloth panel on their chest that named the team for which they normally rode. Sponsors were always unhappy about releasing their riders into anonymity for the biggest race of the year and the situation became critical at the start of the 1960s. Sales of bicycles had fallen and bicycle factories were closing.[60] There was a risk, the trade said, that the industry would die if factories weren't allowed the publicity of the Tour de France.

The Tour returned to trade teams in 1962,[61] although with further problems. Doping had become a problem and tests were introduced for riders. Riders went on strike near Bordeaux in 1966[62][63] and the organisers suspected sponsors provoked them. The Tour returned to national teams for 1967 and 1968[64] as "an experiment".[65] The author Geoffrey Nicholson identified a further reason: opposition to closure of roads by a race criticised as crassly commercial.[66][67] He said:

What the Tour did to placate the opposition in 1967 was to play the patriotic card. It scrapped trade teams in favour of national teams ... since a contest between squads in French and Belgian colours would appear less blatantly commercial than one between Ford-France-Gitane and Flandria-Romeo. 'It was being done,' said L'Équipe, the voice of the Tour, 'in response to the noble and superior interests of the race, to the wishes of the public and the desires of the public authorities.'
[66]
The sponsors had to accept the change, but did so with ill-grace. The new arrangement, they argued, was basically unfair: they paid the riders' salaries all summer only to be denied publicity from the season's major event. They also pointed to the danger of collusion between trade-team colleagues of different nationalities ... Indeed loyalties were put under so much strain that the experiment was dropped after only two seasons.
[66]

The Tour returned to trade teams in 1969[68] with a suggestion that national teams could come back every few years. This never happened.

Distances

The Tour originally ran around the perimeter of France. Cycling was an endurance sport and the organisers realised the sales they would achieve by creating supermen of their competitors. Night riding was dropped after the second Tour in 1904, when there had been persistent cheating when judges could not see riders.[69] That reduced the daily and overall distance but the emphasis remained on endurance. Desgrange said his ideal race would be so hard that only one rider would make it to Paris.[70]

A succession of doping scandals in the 1960s, culminating in the death of Tom Simpson in 1967, led the Union Cycliste Internationale to limit daily and overall distances and to impose rest days. It was then impossible to follow the frontiers, and the Tour increasingly zig-zagged across the country, sometimes with unconnected days' races linked by train, while still maintaining some sort of loop. The modern Tour typically has 21 daily stages and not more than 3,500 km (2,200 miles). The longest Tour was in 1926 at 5,745 km, the shortest in 1904 at 2,428 km.[3]

Advertising caravan

The Tour changed in 1930 to a competition largely between teams representing their countries rather than the companies which sponsored them. The costs of accommodating riders fell to the organisers instead of the sponsors and Henri Desgrange raised the money by allowing advertisers to precede the race.

The procession of often colourfully decorated trucks and cars became known as the publicity caravan. It formalised a situation which had already arisen, companies having started to follow the race. The first to sign to precede the Tour was the chocolate company, Menier, one of those which had followed the race. Its head of publicity, Paul Thévenin, had first put the idea to Desgrange.[71] It paid 50,000 old francs. Preceding the race was more attractive to advertisers because spectators gathered by the road long before the race or could be attracted from their houses. Advertisers following the race found that many who had watched the race had already gone home.

Menier handed out tons of chocolate in that first year of preceding the race, as well as 500,000 policemen's hats printed with the company's name. The success led to the caravan's existence being formalised the following year.

The caravan was at its height between 1930 and the mid-1960s, before television and especially television advertising was established in France. Advertisers competed to attract public attention. Motorcycle acrobats performed for the Cinzano apéritif company and a toothpaste maker, and an accordionist, Yvette Horner, became one of the most popular sights as she performed on the roof of a Citroën Traction Avant .[72] The modern Tour restricts the excesses to which advertisers are allowed to go but at first anything was allowed. The writer Pierre Bost[73] lamented: "This caravan of 60 gaudy trucks singing across the countryside the virtues of an apéritif, a make of underpants or a dustbin is a shameful spectacle. It bellows, it plays ugly music, it's sad, it's ugly, it smells of vulgarity and money."[74]

Advertisers pay the Société du Tour de France approximately €150,000 to place three vehicles in the caravan.[75] Some have more. On top of that come the more considerable costs of the commercial samples that are thrown to the crowd and the cost of accommodating the drivers and the staff - frequently students - who throw them. The vehicles also have to be decorated on the morning of each stage and, because they must return to ordinary highway standards, disassembled after each stage. Numbers vary but there are normally around 250 vehicles each year. Their order on the road is established by contract, the leading vehicles belonging to the largest sponsors.

The procession sets off two hours before the start and then regroups to precede the riders by an hour and a half. It spreads 20–25 km and takes 40 minutes to pass at between 20 and 60kmh. Vehicles travel in groups of five. Their position is logged by GPS and from an aircraft and organised on the road by the caravan director - Jean-Pierre Lachaud[76] - an assistant, three motorcyclists, two radio technicians and a breakdown and medical crew.[75] Six motorcyclists from the Garde Républicaine, the élite of the gendarmerie - ride with them.[77]

The advertisers distribute publicity material to the crowd. The number of items has been estimated at 11 million, each person in the procession giving out 3,000 to 5,000 items a day.[75] The bank, GAN, gave out 170,000 caps, 80,000 badges, 60,000 plastic bags and 535,000 copies of its race newspaper in 1994. Together, they weighed 32 tons.[77]

Spectators have died in collisions with the caravan (see below).

Strikes, exclusions and disqualifications

In 1907 Emile Georget was placed last in the day's results after changing his bicycle outside a permitted area. Edmond Gentil, sponsor of the rival Alcyon team, withdrew all his riders in protest at what he considered too light a penalty. They included Louis Trousselier the winner in 1905.

In 1912 and in 1913 Octave Lapize withdrew all his La Française team in protest at what he saw as the collusion of Belgian riders.

In 1913 as well, Odile Defraye pulled out of the race with painful legs and took the whole Alcyon team with him.

In 1920 half the field pulled out at Les Sables d'Olonne in protest at Desgrange's style of management.

In 1925 the threat of a strike ended Desgrange's plan that riders should all eat exactly the same amount of food each day.

In 1937 Sylvère Maes of Belgium withdrew all his national team after he considered his French rival, Roger Lapébie, had been punished too lightly for being towed uphill by car.

In 1950 the two Italian teams went home after the leader of the first team, Gino Bartali, thought a spectator had threatened him with a knife.

In 1950 much of the field got off their bikes and ran into the Mediterranean at Ste-Maxime. The summer had been unusually hot and some riders were said to have ridden into the sea without dismounting. All involved were penalised by the judges.

In 1966 riders went on strike near Bordeaux after drugs tests the previous evening.

In 1968 journalists went on strike for a day after Félix Lévitan had accused them of watching "with tired eyes", his response to the writers' complaint that the race was dull.

In 1978 they rode slowly all day and then walked across the line at Valence d'Agen in protest at having to get up early to ride more than one stage in a day.

In 1982 striking steel workers halted the team time trial.

In 1987 photographers went on strike, saying cars carrying the Tour's guests were getting in their way.

In 1988 the race went on strike in a protest concerning a drugs test on Pedro Delgado.

In 1990 the organisers learned of a blockade by farmers in the Limoges area and diverted the race before it got there.

In 1991 riders refused to race for 40 minutes because a rider, Urs Zimmerman, was penalised for driving from one stage finish to the start of the next instead of flying.

In 1991 the PDM team went home after its riders fell ill one by one within 48 hours.

In 1992 activists of the Basque separatist movement bombed followers' cars overnight.

In 1998 the race stopped in protest at what the riders saw as heavy-handed investigation of drug-taking allegations.

In 1998 the Festina team was disqualified after revelations of organised doping within the team.

In 1999 demonstrating firemen stopped the race and pelted it with stink bombs.

Organisers

The peloton of the Tour de France

The first organiser was Henri Desgrange, although daily running of the 1903 race was by Lefèvre. He followed riders by train and bicycle. In 1936 Desgrange had a prostate operation. At the time, two operations were needed; the Tour de France was due to fall between them. Desgrange persuaded his surgeon to let him follow the race.[78] The second day proved too much and, in a fever at Charleville, he retired to his château at Beauvallon. Desgrange died at home on the Mediterranean coast on 16 August 1940.[78] The race was taken over by his deputy, Jacques Goddet.[79]

War interrupted the Tour. The German Propaganda Staffel wanted it to be run and offered facilities otherwise denied, in the hope of maintaining a sense of normality.[78][80] They offered to open the borders between German-occupied France in the north and nominally independent Vichy France in the south but Goddet refused.[78][81]

Jacques Goddet memorial at the top of the Tourmalet

In 1944, L'Auto was closed – its doors nailed shut – and its belongings, including the Tour, sequestrated by the state for publishing articles too close to the Germans.[82] Rights to the Tour were therefore owned by the government. Jacques Goddet was allowed to publish another daily sports paper, L'Équipe, but there was a rival candidate to run the Tour: a consortium of Sports and Miroir Sprint. Each organised a candidate race. L'Équipe and Le Parisien Libéré had La Course du Tour de France[83] and Sports and Miroir Sprint had La Ronde de France. Both were five stages, the longest the government would allow because of shortages.[84] L'Équipe's race was better organised and appealed more to the public because it featured national teams which had been successful before the war, when French cycling was at a high. L'Équipe was given the right to organise the 1947 Tour de France.[78]

L'Équipe's finances were never sound and Goddet accepted an advance by Émilion Amaury, who had supported his bid to run the post-war Tour.[78] Amaury was a newspaper magnate whose condition was that his sports editor, Félix Lévitan should join Goddet for the Tour.[78] The two worked together, Goddet running the sporting side and Lévitan the financial.

Lévitan began to recruit sponsors, sometimes accepting prizes in kind if he could not get cash.[85] He introduced the finish of the Tour at the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in 1975. He left the Tour on 17 March 1987 after losses by the Tour of America, in which he was involved. The claim was that it had been cross-financed by the Tour de France.[78] Lévitan insisted he was innocent but the lock to his office was changed and his job was over.[78] Goddet retired the following year. They were replaced in 1988 by Jean-Pierre Courcol, the director if L'Équipe, then in 1989 by Jean-Pierre Carenso and then by Jean-Marie Leblanc, who in 1989 had been race director. The former television presenter Christian Prudhomme – he commentated on the Tour among other events – replaced Leblanc in 2005, having been assistant director for two years.

Prudhomme works for the Société du Tour de France, a subsidiary of Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which since 1993 has been part of the media group Amaury Group that owns L'Équipe.[86] It employs around 70 people full time, in an office facing but not connected to L'Équipe in the Issy-les-Moulineaux area of outer western Paris. That number expands to about 220 during the race itself, not including 500 contractors employed to move barriers, erect stages, signpost the route and other work.[87]

Politics

The first three Tours stayed within France. The 1906 race went into Alsace-Lorraine, territory occupied by Germany since the end of the Franco-Prussian war in 1870. Passage was secured through a meeting at Metz between Desgrange's collaborator, Alphonse Steinès, and the German governor. The race passed to the waving of local people, the race director Victor Breyer wrote, but not without trouble at the border. L'Auto reported the difference between the German and French border controls:

Woken from a deep sleep, obliged to get up in three minutes, the German customs appeared before us correctly dressed in new uniforms. At the French border, by contrast, it was simply distressing. Smelly, covered in mud, their clothes patched and discoloured, backs bent, squashed képis on dirty bodies, the two officials charged with nosing around on behalf of the tax authorities and who represented France revolted us.
[88]

The Germans let not only the competitors pass without problem but all the officials and their cars and the amateur enthusiasts who rode with them. "It is distressing," L'Auto said, "to find that it's only the French who can't grasp the simple idea ... of allowing the best representatives of French energy [to cross the border]."[89] The paper offered to start a public appeal to provide better clothes for its frontier officials.

No teams from Italy, Germany or Spain rode in 1939 because of tensions preceding the second world war, and the race was not held again until 1947 (see Tour de France during the Second World War). The first German team after the war was in 1960, although individual Germans had ridden in mixed teams. The Tour has since started in Germany three times: in Cologne in 1965, in Frankfurt in 1980 and in West Berlin on the city's 750th anniversary in 1987. Plans to enter East Germany that year were abandoned.

Corsica

The Tour de France has visited every region of European France[90] except Corsica.

Jean-Marie Leblanc, when he was organiser, said the island had never asked for a stage start there. It would be difficult to find accommodation for 4,000 people, he said.[91] The spokesman of the Corsican nationalist party, François Alfonsi, said: "The organisers must be afraid of outrages [attentas].[92] If they are really thinking of a possible terrorist action, they are wrong. Our movement, which is nationalist and for self-government [autonomiste] would be delighted if the Tour came to Corsica."[91]

Current status

Prizes

Prize money in Euros in the Tour de France, not corrected for inflation.

Prize money has always been awarded. From 20,000 old francs the first year,[93] prize money has increased each year, although from 1976 to 1987 the first prize was an apartment offered by a race sponsor. The first prize in 1988 was a car, a studio-apartment, a work of art and 500,000 francs in cash. Prizes only in cash returned in 1990.[94]

Prizes and bonuses are awarded for daily placings and final placings at the end of the race. In 2009, the winner received €450,000, while each of the 21 stage winners won €8,000 (€10,000 for the team time-trial stage). The winners of the green and polka-dot jersey competitions each win €25,000, the white jersey competition and the combativity prize €20,000, and €50,000 for the winner of the overall team standings (calculated by adding the cumulative times of the best three riders in each team).[95]

The Souvenir Henri Desgrange, in memory of the founder of the Tour, is awarded to the first rider over the col du Galibier where his monument stands,[95] or to the first rider over the highest col in the Tour. In 2008 it was awarded for traversing the col de la Bonette. A similar award is made at the summit of the col du Tourmalet, at the memorial to Jacques Goddet, Desgrange's successor.

Classification jerseys

Riders aim to win overall but there are three further competitions: points, mountains and for the best young rider. The leader of each wears a distinctive jersey. A rider who leads more than one competition wears the jersey of the most prestigious. The abandoned jersey is worn by the second in the competition. The Tour's colours have been adopted by other races and have meaning within cycling generally. For example, the Tour of Britain has yellow, green, and polka-dot jerseys with the same meaning as the Tour. The Giro d'Italia differs in awarding the leader a pink jersey, being organised by La Gazzetta dello Sport, which has pink pages.

Overall leader

Seven-time winner Lance Armstrong in the maillot jaune.
Jersey yellow.svg
Maillot jaune

The maillot jaune (yellow jersey) is worn by the general classification leader. The winner of the first Tour wore not a yellow jersey but a green armband.[17] The first yellow was first awarded formally to Eugène Christophe, for the stage from Grenoble on 19 July 1919.[96] However, the Belgian rider Philippe Thys, who won in 1913, 1914 and 1920, recalled in the Belgian magazine Champions et Vedettes when he was 67 that he was awarded a yellow jersey in 1913 when Henri Desgrange asked him to wear a coloured jersey. Thys declined, saying making himself more visible would encourage others to ride against him.[17][97] He said:

He then made his argument from another direction. Several stages later, it was my team manager at Peugeot, (Alphonse) Baugé, who urged me to give in. The yellow jersey would be an advertisement for the company and, that being the argument, I was obliged to concede. So a yellow jersey was bought in the first shop we came to. It was just the right size, although we had to cut a slightly larger hole for my head to go through.[97][98][n 1]

He spoke of the next year, when "I won the first stage and was beaten by a tyre by Bossus in the second. On the following stage, the maillot jaune passed to Georget after a crash." The Tour historian Jacques Augendre called Thys "a valorous rider ... well-known for his intelligence" and said his claim "seems free from all suspicion". But: "No newspaper mentions a yellow jersey before the war. Being at a loss for witnesses, we can't solve this enigma."[99]

The first rider to wear the yellow jersey from start to finish was Ottavio Bottecchia of Italy in 1924.[100] The first company to pay a daily prize to the wearer of the yellow jersey – known as the "rent" – was a wool company, Sofil, in 1948.[101] The greatest number of riders to wear the yellow jersey in a day is three: Nicolas Frantz, André Leducq and Victor Fontan shared equal time for a day in 1929 and there was no rule to split them.[101]

One rider has won seven times:

  • Lance Armstrong in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005 (seven consecutive years).

Four riders have won five times:

Three riders have won three times:

Seven riders have won the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia in the same year:

The youngest Tour de France winner was Henri Cornet, aged 19 in 1904. Next youngest was Romain Maes, 21 in 1935. The oldest winner was Firmin Lambot, aged 36 in 1922. Next oldest were Henri Pélissier (1923) and Gino Bartali (1948), both 34. Gino Bartali holds the longest time span between titles, having earned his first and last Tour victories 10 years apart (in 1938 and 1948).

Riders from France have won most (36), followed by Belgium (18), Spain (12), United States (10), Italy (9), Luxembourg (4), Switzerland and the Netherlands (2 each) and Ireland, Denmark and Germany (1 each).

See also List of Tour de France winners

Stage points

Jersey green.svg

The maillot vert (green jersey) is awarded for sprint points. At the end of each stage, points are earned by the riders who finish first, second, etc. Points are higher for flat stages, as sprints are more likely, and less for mountain stages, where climbers usually win. In the current rules, there are five types of stages: flat stages, intermediates stages, mountain stages, individual time trial stages and team time trial stages. The number of points awarded at the end of each stage are:

Plainstage.svg Flat stages
35, 30, 26, 24, 22, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 points are awarded to the first 25 riders across the finish line.
Mediummountainstage.svg Intermediate stages
25, 22, 20, 18, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points are awarded to the first 20 riders across the finish line.
Mountainstage.svg High-mountain stages
20, 17, 15, 13, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points are awarded to the first 15 riders across the finish line.
History.gif Time-trials
15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 points are awarded to the top 10 finishers of the stage.

In addition, stages can have intermediate sprints in which 6, 4, and 2 points are awarded to the first three. In case of a tie, the number of stage wins determine the green jersey, then the number of intermediate sprint victories, and finally, the rider's standing in the general classification. The points competition began in 1953, to mark the 50th anniversary. It was called the Grand Prix du Cinquentenaire and was won by Fritz Schaer of Switzerland. The first sponsor was La Belle Jardinière. The current sponsor is Pari Mutuel Urbain, a state betting company.[102]

One rider has won the points competition six times:

  • Erik Zabel 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 (consecutive years)
Michael Rasmussen wearing the polka dot jersey on the individual time trial (stage 20) of the 2005 Tour de France.

King of the Mountains

Jersey polkadot.svg

The King of the Mountains wears a white jersey with red dots (maillot à pois rouges), inspired by a jersey that one of the organisers, Félix Lévitan, had seen at the Vélodrome d'Hiver in Paris in his youth. The competition gives points to the first to top designated hills and mountains.

The first Tour de France included one mountain pass – the Ballon d'Alsace in the Vosges[103] – but several lesser cols. The first was the col des Echarmeaux, on the opening stage from Paris to Lyon, on what is now the old road from Autun to Lyon. The stage from Lyon to Marseille included the col de la République, also known as the col du Grand Bois, at the edge of St-Etienne. True mountains, however, were not included until the Pyrenees in 1910. In that year the race rode, or more walked, first the col d'Aubisque and then the nearby Tourmalet. Desgrange once more stayed away. Both climbs were mule tracks, a demanding challenge on heavy, ungeared bikes ridden by men with spare tyres around their shoulders and their food, clothing and tools in bags hung from their handlebars. The assistant organiser, Victor Breyer, stood at the summit of the Aubisque with the colleague who had proposed including the Pyrenees, Alphonse Steinès. Breyer wrote of the first man to reach them:

His body heaved at the pedals, like an automaton, on two wheels. He wasn't going fast but he was at least moving. I trotted alongside him and asked 'Who are you? What's going on? Where are the others?' Bent over his handlebars, his eyes riveted on the road, the man never turned his head nor uttered one sole word. He continued and disappeared round a turn. Steinès had read his number and consulted the riders' list. Steinès was dumfounded. 'The man is François Lafourcade, a nobody. He has caught and passed all the cracks' ... Another quarter-hour passed before the second rider appeared, whom we immediately recognised as Octave Lapize. Unlike Lafourcade, Lapize was walking, half leaning on, half pushing his machine. But unlike his predecessor, Lapize spoke, and in abundance. 'You are assassins, yes, assassins!' To discuss matters with a man in this condition would have been cruel and stupid.

Desgrange was confident enough after the Pyrenees to include the Alps in 1911.[105]

The highest climb in the race was the col de la Bonette in the 2008 Tour de France, reaching 2715 m. The highest mountain finish in the Tour was at the col du Granon in 1986.[106][107] The 2413 m pass was reached first by Eduardo Chozas of Spain. Mountains such as the Galibier, Tourmalet, Alpe d'Huez, Madeleine, Ventoux and Aubisque attract amateur cyclists every day in summer to test their fitness on roads used by champions.

The difficulty of a climb is established by its steepness, length and its position on the course. The easiest are graded 4, most of the hardest as 1 and the exceptional (such as the Tourmalet) as beyond classification, or hors catégorie. Notable hors catégorie peaks include the col du Tourmalet, Mont Ventoux, col du Galibier, the climb to the ski resort of Hautacam, and Alpe d'Huez.

Climbs rated "hors catégorie" (HC): 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 6 and 5.

Category 1: 15, 13, 11, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5.

Category 2: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, and 5.

Category 3: 4, 3, 2 and 1.

Category 4: 3, 2 and 1.

For the last climb of a stage, points are doubled for HC and categories one and two.

The best climber was first recognised in 1933, prizes were given from 1934 and the jersey was introduced in 1975.[102]

One rider has been King of the Mountains seven times:

Two riders have been King of the Mountains six times:

Miscellaneous categories

Jersey white.svg

Since 1975, there has been a competition for young riders. From 1975 to 1989 and from 2000, the leader has worn a white jersey (maillot blanc in French) One rider has won three times:

  • Jan Ullrich 1996, 1997, 1998. In these years however, this classification did not have its own jersey.

The prix de la combativité goes to the rider who most animates the day, usually by trying to break clear of the field. The most combative rider wears a number printed white-on-red instead of black-on-white next day. An award goes to the most aggressive rider throughout the Tour. Already in 1908 a sort of combativity award was offered, when Sports Populaires and L'Education Physique created Le Prix du Courage, 100 francs and a silver gilt medal for "the rider having finished the course, even if unplaced, who is particularly distinguished for the energy he has used."[100][108] The modern competition started in 1958.[100][109] In 1959, a Super Combativity award for the most combative cyclist of the Tour was awarded. It was initially not rewarded every year, but since 1981 it has been given annually.

The team prize is assessed by adding the time of each team's best three riders each day. The competition does not have its own jersey but since 2006 the leading team has worn numbers printed black-on-yellow. The competition has existed from the start; the most successful trade team is Alcyon, which won from 1909 to 1912 and from 1927 to 1929. The best national teams are France and Belgium, with 10 wins each.[102]

Historical jerseys

There has been an intermediate sprints classification, which from 1984 awarded a red jersey[110] for points awarded to the first three to pass intermediate points during the stage. These sprints also scored points towards the green jersey and bonuses towards the general classification. The sprints remain, with points for the green jersey. The red jersey was abolished in 1989.[111]

From 1968 there was a combination classification,[8] scored on a points system based on standings for the yellow, green, red, and polka-dot jerseys. The design was originally white, then a patchwork with areas resembling each individual jersey design. This was also abolished in 1989.[112]

Lanterne rouge

The rider who has taken most time is called the lanterne rouge (English: red lantern) and in past years sometimes carried a small red light beneath his saddle. Such was sympathy that he could command higher fees in the round-the-houses races that followed the Tour. The custom died along with the races. In 1939 and 1948 the organisers sent home the last rider every day, to encourage more competitive racing.[113]

Stages

Mass-start stages

A collected peloton in the 2006 Tour

Riders in most stages start together. The first kilometres, the départ fictif, are a rolling start without racing. The real start, the départ réel is announced by the Tour director's waving a white flag.

Riders are permitted to touch, but not push or nudge, and to slipstream (see drafting). The first to cross the line wins. On flat stages or stages with low hills, which generally predominate in the first week, this leads to spectacular mass sprints.

All riders in a group finish in the same time as the lead rider. This avoids dangerous mass sprints. It is not unusual for the entire field to finish in a group, taking time to cross the line but being credited with the same time. Since 2005, when riders fall or crash within the final 3 kilometers of a stage with a flat finish, they are awarded the same time as the group they were in.[114] This change encourages riders to sprint to the finish for points awards without fear of losing time to the group. The final kilometre has been indicated since 1906 by a red triangle – the flamme rouge – above the road.

Time bonuses for the first three at intermediate sprints and stage finishes were discontinued with the 2008 race.

Stages in the mountains often cause major shifts in the general classification. On ordinary stages, most riders can stay in the peloton to the finish; during mountain stages, it is not uncommon for riders to lose 30 minutes or to be eliminated after finishing outside the time limit.

The first photo-finish was in 1955.[115]

Individual time trials

Lance Armstrong riding the prologue of the 2004 Tour.

Riders in a time trial compete individually against the clock, each starting at a different time. The first time trial was between La Roche-sur-Yon and Nantes (80 km) in 1934.[116] The first stage in modern Tours is often a short trial, a prologue, to decide who wears yellow on the opening day. The first prologue was in 1967.[117] The 1988 event, at La Baule, was called "la préface".[118]

There are usually two or three time trials. One may be a team time trial. The final time trial has sometimes been the final stage, more recently often the penultimate stage.

The launch ramp, a sloping start pad for riders, was first used in 1965, at Cologne.[119]

Team time trial

A team time trial (TTT) is a race against the clock in which each team rides alone. The time is that of the fifth rider of each team: riders more than a bike-length behind their team's fifth rider are awarded their own times. The TTT has been criticised for favouring strong teams and handicapping strong riders in weak teams. After a four-year absence, the TTT returned in 2009.

The prologue stage in 1971 was a team time trial.[117] The 1939 TTT crossed the Iseran mountain pass between Bonneval and Bourg-St-Maurice.[120]

Notable stages

Altitude profile of the Alpe d'Huez climb

The race has finished since 1975 with laps of the Champs-Élysées. This stage rarely challenges the leader because it is flat and the leader usually has too much time in hand to be denied. But in 1987, Pedro Delgado broke away on the Champs to challenge the 40-second lead held by Stephen Roche. He and Roche finished in the peloton and Roche won the Tour. In 1989 the last stage was a time trial. Greg LeMond overtook Laurent Fignon to win by eight seconds, the closest margin.

The climb of Alpe d'Huez is a favourite, providing a stage in most Tours. In 2004, a time trial ended at Alpe d'Huez. Riders complained about abusive spectators and the stage may not be repeated.[121][122] Mont Ventoux is often claimed to be the hardest in the Tour because of the harsh conditions.

To host a stage start or finish brings prestige and business to a town. The prologue and first stage are particularly prestigious. Usually one town will host the prologue (too short to go between towns) and the start of stage 1. In 2007 director Christian Prudhomme said that "in general, for a period of five years we have the Tour start outside France three times and within France twice."[123]

Broadcasting

The Tour was first followed only by journalists from L'Auto, the organisers. The race was founded to increase sales of a foundering newspaper and its editor, Desgrange, saw no reason to allow rival publications to profit. The first time papers other than L'Auto were allowed was 1921, when 15 press cars were allowed for regional and foreign reporters.[124]

The Tour was shown first on cinema newsreels a day or more after the event. The first live radio broadcast was in 1929, when Jean Antoine and Alex Virot of the newspaper L'Intransigeant broadcast for Radio Cité. They used telephone lines. In 1932 they broadcast the sound of riders crossing the col d'Aubisque in the Pyrenees on 12 July, using a recording machine and transmitting the sound later.

The first television pictures were shown a day after a stage. The national TV channel used two 16mm cameras, a Jeep and a motorbike. Film was flown or taken by train to Paris. It was edited there and shown the following day. The first live broadcast, and the second of any sport in France, was the finish at the Parc des Princes in Paris on 25 July 1948.[125] Rik van Steenbergen of Belgium led in the bunch after a stage of 340 km from Nancy. The first live coverage from the side of the road was from the Aubisque on 8 July 1958. Proposals to cover the whole race were abandoned in 1962 after objections from regional newspapers which feared the competition.[126] The dispute was settled but not in time and the first complete coverage was the following year.

The leading television commentator in France was a former rider, Robert Chapatte. At first he was the only commentator. He was joined in following seasons by an analyst for the mountain stages and by a commentator following the competitors by motorcycle.

Broadcasting in France was largely a state monopoly until 1982, when the socialist president François Mitterrand allowed private broadcasters and denationalised the leading television channel. Competition between channels raised the broadcasting fees paid to the organisers from 1.5 per cent of the race budget in 1960 to more than a third by the end of the century.[127] Broadcasting time also increased as channels competed to secure the rights. The two largest channels to stay in public ownership, Antenne 2 and FR3, combined to offer more coverage than its private rival, Télévision France. The two stations, renamed France 2 and France 3, still hold the domestic rights and provide pictures for broadcasters around the world.

The stations use a staff of 300 with four helicopters, two aircraft, two motorcycles, 35 other vehicles including trucks, and 20 podium cameras.[128]

The sale of international rights has given the Tour the world's largest viewing figures for an annual sports event and the third highest figures for any sports event. The two top events are the Olympic Games and the soccer World Cup, each held every four years [129] The race was broadcast by 65 stations in 110 countries in 2003, according to the head of television rights at Amaury Sport Organisation, Yann Le Moëner.[130] The company's drive to expand coverage, which by 2003 accounted with ASO's other sports events for 40 per cent of the group's budget, included paying a television channel to take the race in the USA in the 1990s.[131]

Domestic television covers the most important stages of the Tour, such as those in the mountains, from midmorning until early evening. Coverage typically starts with a survey of the day's route, interviews along the road, discussions of the difficulties and tactics ahead, and a 30-minute archive feature. The biggest stages are shown live from start to end, followed by interviews with riders and others and features such an edited version of the stage seen from beside a team manager following and advising riders from his car. Radio covers the race in updates throughout the day, particularly on the national news channel, France-Info, and some stations provide continuous commentary on long wave.

Culture

Part of the crowd during most days of the Tour is Didi Senft who, in a red devil costume, has been the Tour devil since 1993.

The Tour is important for fans in Europe. Millions[132] line the route, some having camped a week to get the best view. The journalist Pierre Chany wrote:

The Tour de France has the major fault of dividing the country, the smallest hamlets, even families, into rival factions. I know a man who grabbed his wife and held her on the grill of a lighted stove, sitting with her dress pulled up, to punish her for favouring Jacques Anquetil while he admired Raymond Poulidor. The following year, the woman became a Poulidoriste, but too late: the husband had changed his allegiance to Felice Gimondi. The last I heard, they were digging their heels in and the neighbours were complaining.
School book by Augustine Fouillée under the 'nom de plume' G. Bruno.

The Tour de France appealed from the start not just for the distance and its demands but because it played to a wish for national unity,[134] a call to what Maurice Barrès called the France "of earth and deaths" or what Georges Vigarello called "the image of a France united by its earth."[135]

The image had been started by the 1877 travel/school book Le Tour de la France par deux enfants.[n 2] It told of two boys, André and Julien, who "in a thick September fog left the town of Phalsbourg in Lorraine to see France at a time when few people had gone far beyond their nearest town."

The book sold six million copies by the time of the first Tour de France,[134] the biggest selling book of 19th century France (other than the Bible).[136] It stimulated a national interest in France, making it "visible and alive", as its preface said. There had already been a car race called the Tour de France but it was the publicity behind the cycling race, and Desgrange's drive to educate and improve the population,[137] that inspired the French to know more of their country.[138]

The academic historians Jean-Luc Boeuf and Yves Léonard say most people in France had little idea of the shape of their country until L'Auto began publishing maps of the race. They wrote:

At the start of the 20th century, the French were still largely ignorant (connaissent encore très mal) of the geography of their country. Maps were rare and little used, even at school. The physical shape of France and its contours remained an unknown for most Frenchmen ... Efforts to interest school children in the image in general and maps in particular were in vain. The book Tour de France par Deux Enfants didn't have a map of France before its 1905 edition, by which time it had sold seven million copies!
By the maps of France [that it published], the Tour de France became at the same time a teacher, in printing a map of the contours of the country – which was rare at least until the Great War – and populist in portraying France as a hexagon, a France not only amputated from 1903 of its "lost provinces" but also its overseas possessions and Corsica, never visited in a century and still missing from maps of the Tour de France.

Eugen Weber, in the foreword to Tour de France: 1903–2003 says:

The Tour contributed more to France than new-model heroes. It put flesh on the bones of values taught in school but seldom internalized: effort, courage, determination, stoic endurance of pain, and even fair play. It familiarized a nation with its geography. It brought life, activity, excitement into small towns where very little happened; it introduced a festive atmosphere wherever it passed; and it acquainted provincial backwaters with spectacular displays previously available only in big cities.
Raymond Poulidor

The Tour de France has also given the language a word for a popular but persistent loser. Raymond Poulidor never won the Tour de France but was more popular than his rival, Jacques Anquetil, who won five times and unfailingly beat him. Poulidor is now associated with bad luck or a hard life, as an article by Jacques Marseille showed in Le Figaro when it was headlined "This country is suffering from a Poulidor Complex".[141][142]

Arts

The Tour has inspired several popular songs in France, notably P'tit gars du Tour (1932), Les Tours de France (1936) and Faire le Tour de France (1950). Kraftwerk had a hit with Tour de France in 1983 – described as a minimalistic "melding of man and machine"[143] – and produced an album, Tour de France Soundtracks in 2003, the centenary of the Tour. The race inspired Queen's 1978 single Bicycle Race as it passed Freddie Mercury's hotel.

In films, the Tour was background for Cinq Tulipes Rouges (1949) by Jean Stelli, in which five riders are murdered. La Course en Tête (1974) followed Eddy Merckx and was selected for the Cannes Film Festival. A burlesque in 1967, Les Cracks by Alex Joffé, with Bourvil et Monique Tarbès, also featured him. Patrick Le Gall made Chacun son Tour (1996). The comedy, Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert (2001), featured the Tour of 1974.

In 2005, three films chronicled a team. The German Höllentour, translated as Hell on Wheels, recorded 2003 from the perspective of Team Telekom. The film was directed by Pepe Danquart, who won an Academy Award for live-action short film in 1993 for Black Rider (Schwarzfahrer).[144] The Danish film Overcoming by Tómas Gislason recorded the 2004 Tour from the perspective of Team CSC.

Wired to Win : Surviving the Tour de France chronicles Française des Jeux riders Baden Cooke and Jimmy Caspar in 2003. By following their quest for the green jersey, won by Cooke, the film looks at the working of the brain. The film, made for IMAX theaters, appeared in December 2005. It was directed by Bayley Silleck, who was nominated for an Academy Award for documentary short subject in 1996 for Cosmic Voyage.[145]

A fan, Scott Coady, followed the 2000 Tour with a handheld video camera to make The Tour Baby!, which raised $160,000 to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation,[146] and made a 2005 sequel,Tour Baby Deux!.

Vive Le Tour by Louis Malle is an 18-minute short of 1962. The 1965 Tour was filmed by Claude Lelouch in Pour un Maillot Jaune. This 30-minute documentary has no narration and relies on sights and sounds of the Tour.

In fiction, the 2003 animated feature Les Triplettes de Belleville (The Triplets of Belleville) ties into the Tour de France.

Doping

Spectators' banner during the Tour de France 2006

Allegations of doping have plagued the Tour almost since 1903. Early riders consumed alcohol and used ether, to dull the pain. Over the years they began to increase performance and the Union Cycliste Internationale and governments enacted policies to combat the practice.

In 1924, Henri Pélissier and his brother Charles told the journalist Albert Londres they used strychnine, cocaine, chloroform, aspirin, "horse ointment" and other drugs.[147] The story was published in Le Petit Parisien under the title Les Forçats de la Route ('The Convicts of the Road')[17][148][149][150]

On 13 July 1967, British cyclist Tom Simpson died climbing Mont Ventoux after taking amphetamine. In 1998, the "Tour of Shame", Willy Voet, soigneur for the Festina team, was arrested with erythropoietin (EPO), growth hormones, testosterone and amphetamine. Police raided team hotels and found products in possession of TVM. Riders went on strike. After mediation by director Jean-Marie Leblanc, police limited their tactics and riders continued. Some riders had abandoned and only 96 finished the race. It became clear in a trial that management and health officials of the Festina team had organised the doping.

Further measures were introduced by race organisers and the UCI, including more frequent testing and tests for blood doping (transfusions and EPO use). An independent organisation, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), was created. In 2002, the wife of Raimondas Rumšas, third in the 2002 Tour de France, was arrested after EPO and anabolic steroids were found in her car. Rumšas, who had not failed a test, was not penalised. In 2004, Philippe Gaumont said doping was endemic to his Cofidis team. Fellow Cofidis rider David Millar confessed to EPO after his home was raided. In the same year, Jesus Manzano, a rider with the Kelme team, alleged he had been forced by his team to use banned substances.[151]

Doping controversy involving unproven allegations have surrounded Lance Armstrong, although he has never tested positive or been formally accused of doping. In August 2005, one month after Armstrong's seventh consecutive victory, L'Équipe published documents it said showed Armstrong had used EPO in the 1999 race.[152][153] Armstrong denied using EPO. At the same Tour, Armstrong's urine showed traces of a glucocorticosteroid hormone, although below the positive threshold. He said he had used skin cream containing triamcinolone to treat saddle sores.[154] Armstrong said he had received permission from the UCI to use this cream.[155]

The 2006 Tour had been plagued by the Operación Puerto doping case before it began, favorites such as Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso banned by their teams a day before the start. Seventeen riders were implicated. American rider Floyd Landis, who finished the Tour as holder of the overall lead, had tested positive for testosterone after he won stage 17, but this was not confirmed until some two weeks after the race finished. On 30 June 2008 Landis lost his appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and Óscar Pereiro was named as winner.[156]

On 24 May 2007, Erik Zabel admitted using EPO during the first week of the 1996 Tour,[157] when he won the maillot vert (green jersey). Following his plea that other cyclists admit to drugs, former winner Bjarne Riis admitted in Copenhagen on 25 May 2007 that he used EPO regularly from 1993 to 1998, including when he won the 1996 Tour.[158] His admission meant the top three in 1996 were all linked to doping, two admitting cheating.

On 24 July 2007 Alexander Vinokourov tested positive for a blood transfusion (blood doping) after winning a time trial, prompting his Astana team to pull out and police to raid the team's hotel.[159] Next day Cristian Moreni tested positive for testosterone. His Cofidis team pulled out.[160]

The same day, leader Michael Rasmussen was removed for "violating internal team rules" by missing random tests on 9 May and 28 June. Rasmussen claimed to have been in Mexico. The Italian journalist Davide Cassani told Danish television he had seen Rasmussen in Italy. The alleged lying prompted his firing by Rabobank.[161]

On 11 July 2008 Manuel Beltrán tested positive for EPO after the first stage.[162]

On 17 July 2008, Ricardo Riccò tested positive for continuous erythropoiesis receptor activator, a variant of EPO,[163] after the fourth stage.

In October 2008, it was revealed that Ricco's teammate and Stage 10 winner Leonardo Piepoli, as well as Stefan Schumacher[164] – who won both time trials – and Bernhard Kohl[165] – third on general classification and King of the Mountains – had tested positive.

Deaths

Cyclists who have died during the Tour de France:

Another seven fatal accidents have occurred:

  • 1934: A motorcyclist giving a demonstration in the velodrome of La Roche Sur Yon, to entertain the crowd before the cyclists arrived, died after he crashed at high speed.[166]
  • 1957: 14 July: Motorcycle rider Rene Wagter and passenger Alex Virot, a journalist for Radio Luxembourg, went off a mountain road near Ax-les-Thermes.
  • 1958: An official, Constant Wouters, died after an accident with sprinter André Darrigade at the Parc des Princes.[167]
  • 1964: Twenty people died when a supply van hit a bridge in the Dordogne region, resulting in the highest tour-related death toll.[75]
  • 2000: A 12-year-old from Ginasservis, known as Phillippe, was hit by a car in the Tour de France publicity caravan.[168]
  • 2002: A seven-year-old boy, Melvin Pompele, died near Retjons after running in front of the caravan.[168]
  • 2009: 18 July, Stage 14: A spectator in her 60s was struck and killed by a police motorcycle while crossing a road along the route near Wittelsheim.[75]

Statistics

One rider has been King of the Mountains, won the points competition, and the Tour in the same year - Eddy Merckx in 1969.

The most appearances have been by Joop Zoetemelk with 16, which includes 1 win of GC, 12 top ten finishes and no abandonments. Three riders, Lucien van Impe (one Tour win), Guy Nulens, and Viatcheslav Ekimov have made 15 appearances; van Impe and Ekimov finished all 15 whereas Nulens abandoned twice.

In the early years of the Tour, cyclists rode individually, and were sometimes forbidden to ride together. This led to large gaps between the winner and the number two. Since the cyclists now tend to stay together in a peloton, the margins of the winner have become smaller, as the difference can only originate from time trials, breakaways or on mountain top finishes. In the table below, the ten smallest margins between the winner and the second placed cyclists at the end of the Tour are given. The largest margin, by comparison, remains that of the first Tour in 1903: 2h 49m 45s between Maurice Garin and Lucien Pothier.[169]

Winning Margin Year Opponents
8" 1989 Greg LeMond – Laurent Fignon
23" 2007 Alberto Contador – Cadel Evans
32" 2006 Óscar Pereiro – Andreas Klöden
38" 1968 Jan Janssen – Herman Van Springel
40" 1987 Stephen Roche – Pedro Delgado
48" 1977 Bernard Thévenet – Hennie Kuiper
55" 1964 Jacques Anquetil – Raymond Poulidor
58" 2008 Carlos Sastre – Cadel Evans
1'01" 2003 Lance Armstrong – Jan Ullrich
1'07" 1966 Lucien Aimar – Jan Janssen

[170]

Stage wins

Six riders have won 20 or more stages:

Three riders have won 8 stages in a single year:

Stage wins by Nationality

Stage Victories Country
655  France
454  Belgium
249  Italy
152  Netherlands
104  Spain

Stage towns

Some cities and towns have hosted 25 or more stage starts and finishes :

  • Paris – 135 (most recent finish: 2009)
  • Bordeaux – 79 (most recent: 2006)
  • Pau – 61 (most recent: 2007)
  • Luchon – 50 (most recent: 2006)
  • Metz – 40 (most recent: 2002)
  • Grenoble – 38 (most recent: 2005)
  • Perpignan – 36 (most recent: 2009)
  • Caen – 35 (most recent: 2006)
  • Nice – 35 (most recent: 1981)
  • Briançon – 34 (most recent: 2009)
  • Marseille – 34 (most recent: 2009)
  • Bayonne – 32 (most recent: 2003)
  • Nantes – 30 (most recent: 2008)
  • Belfort – 29 (most recent: 2000)
  • Montpellier – 29 (most recent: 2009)
  • Brest – 28 (most recent: 2008)
  • L'Alpe d'Huez – 26 (most recent: 2008)
  • Toulouse – 25 (most recent: 2008)
  • Roubaix – 25 (most recent: 1994)

Stage speeds

The fastest massed-start stage was in 1999 from Laval to Blois (194.5 km), won by Mario Cipollini at 50.355 kmh.[171] The fastest full-length time-trial is David Zabriskie's opening stage of 2005, Fromentine – Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile (19 km) at 54.676 kmh.[172] Chris Boardman rode faster during the 1994 prologue stage,[173] Lille-Euralille (7.2 km), with 55.152 kmh.[174] The fastest stage win was by the 2005 Discovery Channel team in a team time-trial. It completed the 67.5 km between Tours and Blois at 57.32 kmh.[175][176]

Successful breakaways

The longest successful post-war breakaway by a single rider was by Albert Bourlon in the 1947 Tour de France. In the stage Carcassone-Luchon, he stayed away for 253 km.[177] It was one of seven breakaways longer than 200 km, the last being Thierry Marie's 234 km escape in 1991.[177] Bourlon finished 16 m 30s ahead. This is one of the biggest time gaps but not the greatest. That record belongs to José-Luis Viejo, who beat the peloton by 22 m 50s in the 1976 stage Montgenèvre-Manosque.[177] He was the fourth and most recent rider to win a stage by more than 20 minutes.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "C'était en 1913. J'étais leader du classement général. Une nuit, Desgrange rêva d'un maillot couleur or et me proposa de le porter. Je refusais, car je me sentais déjà le point de mire de tous. Il insista, mais je me montrais intraitable. Têtu, H.D. revint à la charge par la tangente. En effet, quelques étapes plus loin, ce fut mon directeur sportif de la marque Peugeot, M. Baugé, qui me conseilla de céder. On acheta donc dans le premier magasin venu, un maillot jaune. Il était juste aux dimensions nécessaires. Trop juste même, puisqu'il fallut découper une encolure plus grande pour le passage de la tête et c'est ainsi que je fis plusieurs étapes en décolleté de grande dame. Ce qui ne m'empêcha pas de gagner mon premier Tour!"
  2. ^ A school book written by Augustine Fouillée under the name G. Bruno and published in 1877, it sold six million by 1900, seven million by 1914 and 8,400,000 by 1976. It was used in schools until the 1950s and is still available.
  3. ^ In times of Empire, and when Algeria was considered not a colony but part of France, there was a tendency to see France as not just metropolitan France but all its colonies as well. The popular description of France as "the hexagon" wasn't created by the Tour de France but the Tour de France accelerated the process, say Boeuf and Léonard

References

  1. ^ "Regulations of the race" (PDF). ASO/letour.fr. http://www.letour.fr/2006/TDF/LIVE/docs/reglement_2006_us.pdf. Retrieved 30 December 2008. 
  2. ^ UCI Regulations, p. 43, http://www.uci.ch/Modules/BUILTIN/getObject.asp?MenuId=MTkzNg&ObjTypeCode=FILE&type=FILE&id=34028&LangId=1, retrieved 21 July 2009 
  3. ^ a b "Tour Honour Roll", Ride Media 2007 Official Tour de France Guide, Australian Edition: 172, 200–201, 2007, http://www.ridemedia.com.au 
  4. ^ The first Tour in which the race finished in one town and started in another was 1906, when riders travelled between the finish at Lille to the next start at Douai.
  5. ^ Augendre, Jacques (1996), Le Tour de France: Panorama d'un siècle, Société du Tour de France, no ISBN, p17
  6. ^ Coyle, Daniel (16 July 2006), "What He's Been Pedaling", New York Times Magazine, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/16/magazine/16landis.html 
  7. ^ Dauncey, Hugh and Hare, Geoff (2003), Tour de France: 1903–2003, Routledge, USA, ISBN 978-0-7146-5362-4, p149
  8. ^ a b Augendre, Jacques (1996), Le Tour de France: Panorama d'un siècle, Société du Tour de France, no ISBN, p61
  9. ^ a b Weber, Eugen (2003), foreword to "Tour de France: 1903–2003", eds Dauncey, Hugh and Hare, Geoff, Routledge, USA, ISBN 978-0-7146-5362-4, p. xi
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  11. ^ Weber, p. xi.
  12. ^ Marketing Michelin: advertising & cultural identity in twentieth-century France by Stephen L. Harp p.20
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  15. ^ De Dion, Clément and Michelin were particularly concerned with Le Vélo – which reported more than cycling – because its financial backer was one of their commercial rivals, the Darracq company. De Dion believed Le Vélo gave Darracq too much attention and him too little. De Dion was a gentlemanly but outspoken man who already wrote columns for Le Figaro, Le Matin and others. He was also rich and could afford to indulge his whims, which included founding Le Nain Jaune (the yellow gnome), a publication which "answers no particular need."
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  18. ^ a b Goddet, Jacques (1991), L'Équipée Belle, Robert Laffont (Paris), ISBN 2-221-07290-1, p20
  19. ^ Desgrange had first attempted to copy and outdo races run by his rival. In 1901 he revived the Paris-Brest event after a decade's absence. His winner knocked nearly two hours off the time but the race didn't catch the public imagination. The longest races went from city to city, such as from Bordeaux to Paris, in one stint. Giffard was the first to suggest a race that lasted several days, new to cycling but established practice in car racing. Unlike other cycle races, it would also be run largely without pacers.
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  29. ^ Cited Dauncey, Hugh and Hare, Geoff (2003), Tour de France: 1903–2003, Routledge, USA, ISBN 978-0-7146-5362-4, p63
  30. ^ Cited Augendre, Jacques (1996), Le Tour de France: Panorama d'un Siècle, Société du Tour de France, France, no ISBN, p7
  31. ^ Cited Nicholson, Geoff (1991), Le Tour: the rise and rise of the Tour de France, Hodder and Stoughton, UK, ISBN 0-340-54268-3, p45
  32. ^ Chany, Pierre (1997) La Fabuleuse Histoire du Tour de France, La Martinière, France, ISBN 978-2-7324-2353-1, p26
  33. ^ L'Auto preferred to concentrate on the Coupe Gordon-Bennett car race, even though it wasn't to start for another 48 hours. The choice reflects not only that the Tour de France was an unknown quantity – only after the first race had finished did it establish a reputation – but it hints at Desgrange's uncertainty. His position as editor depended on raising sales. That would happen if the Tour succeeded. But the paper and his employers would lose a lot of money if it didn't. Desgrange preferred to keep a distance. He didn't drop the flag at the start and he didn't follow the riders. Reporting was left to Lefèvre, whose idea it had been, who followed the race by bike and by train. Desgrange showed a personal interest in his race only when it looked a success.
  34. ^ Cited Bell, Adrian (ed) (2003), Golden Stages, Mousehold Press, UK, ISBN 1-874739-28-5, p3
  35. ^ The use of false and often colourful names was not unusual. It reflected not only the daring of the enterprise but the slight scandal still associated with riding bicycle races, enough that some preferred to use a false name. The first city-to-city race, from Paris to Rouen, included many made-up names or simply initials. The first woman to finish had entered as "Miss America", despite not being American.
  36. ^ McGann, Bill and McGann Carol (2006), The Story of the Tour de France vol 1, Dog Ear, USA, ISBN 1-59858-180-5, p11
  37. ^ Seray, Jacques (1994), trans Yates, Richard, 1904: The Tour de France which was to be the last, Buonpane Publications, USA, ISBN 0-9649835-2-4, p154
  38. ^ McGann, Bill and McGann Carol (2006), The Story of the Tour de France vol 1, Dog Ear, USA, ISBN 1-59858-180-5, p12
  39. ^ Cited Seray, Jacques (1994), trans Yates, Richard, 1904: The Tour de France which was to be the last, Buonpane Publications, USA, ISBN 0-9649835-2-4, p129
  40. ^ Seray, Jacques (1994), trans Yates, Richard, 1904: The Tour de France which was to be the last, Buonpane Publications, USA, ISBN 0-9649835-2-4, p148
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  42. ^ "Torelli's History of the Tour de France: the 1930s or, All They Wanted To Do Was to Sell a Few More Newspapers". BikeRaceInfo.com. http://www.bikeraceinfo.com/tdf/tdf%20history/tdfhistory1930.html. Retrieved 27 May 2007. 
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  46. ^ The formula in 1905 was a combination of both time and points. Riders had points deducted for each five seconds lost. Desgrange saw problems in judging both by time and by points. By time, a rider coping with a mechanical problem – which the rules insisted he repair alone – could lose so much time that it cost him the race. Equally, riders could finish so separated that time gained or lost on one or two days could decide the whole race. Judging the race by points removed over-influential time differences but discouraged competitors from riding hard. It made no difference whether they finished fast or slow or separated by seconds or hours, so they were inclined to ride together at a relaxed pace until close to the line, only then disputing the final placings that would give them points.
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  90. ^ A reference that excludes distant regions which are constitutionally part of France.
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  92. ^ Corsica has known periods of violent action attributed to those seeking separation from Paris.
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Further reading

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Etymology

French

Proper noun

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Tour de France

  1. A long cycle race through France and other European countries.

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Simple English

The Tour de France, or Tour of France, is a well known bicycle race. It is held in France, every summer. In recent years it has ended with a race through the centre of Paris, past the Eiffel tower. It is among the most famous, and has some of the highest prizes, of bike races in Europe. Recently, it was in the media, because some athletes were doping. The race goes around France, but can have some parts in other countries like England, Belgium, or Spain as they race in the Pyrenees mountains.

The tour lasts about three weeks. At the end of each day's race the leader is given a yellow shirt, the best sprinter is given a green shirt, and the best rider in the mountain races is given a polka dot jersey. He is sometimes called the King of the Mountains. The best young rider, who must be under 25, gets a white jersey. The winner is the one who finishes the race to Paris in the fastest time. There is a lot of prize money for the teams of the winners of the Tour, but the winner of each day's race also gets prize money.

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