Even though glimpses of the Olympics, Wimbledon and even the last of the French Open have been gracing our TVs, computer screens, websites and ads, you would be hard pressed to forget the Tour de France; one of the biggest cycling events that started way back in 1903! The Tour de France is actually one of three events, only that this one happens to be the most prestigious of the three Grand Tours. These include the Tour of Britain that has a green and yellow polka dot colour scheme for the leader’s jersey, as well as the Giro d’Italia, which uses a pink jersey for the leader.
The Tour de France leader earns a yellow jersey, although with all the tours there are other points and prizes to win as well as being the overall winner, including points (the green jersey), mountains (the King of the Mountais wearing the white jersey with red dots) and the best youngest rider (a white jersey). The overall winner is the one who arrives at Paris first wearing the Maillot Jaune (French translation being ‘the yellow jersey’).
History Of The Race
La Grande Boucle is the nickname for the Tour de France, taking place over 21 days and for 3,200 kilometres. The origins of this race can be traced back as far back as the Dreyfus affair, whereby Alfred Dreyfus was accused and (later exonerated) of selling military secrets to the Germans. This caused a huge rift in France – a cause célèbre (the French translation being ‘a famous case’) over his innocence. This gave way to the reporting of his innocence at Le Velo – one of France’s biggest sports newspapers – which caused a rift within the company. In fact, Jules-Albert De Dion, the owner of the De-Dion Bouton car works, was so disgraced that he formed a rival paper called L’auto, formed with others who agreed with him about his anti-Dreyfus views
Because of this, the rivalry continued for publicity, although at first L’Auto was not getting the success initially imagined. At a meeting the cycling journalist Lefevre suggested a six day race all over France, as these long distance races were a perfect way of distributing newspapers at that time, but there hadn’t been one of this great a length.
The race therefore started in 1903, a five stage race from Paris, stopping at Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Nantes then to Paris again. Toulouse was eventually added before it continued expanding and growing in popularity.
This is just a snapshot of the origins of such a big sporting event that is a great part of French culture – and now you’ve seen the story in translation!