The Tour de France in 1903
France is known for its fine fares and ever stylish demeanor. The name, the language and the beauty of the country is renowned worldwide. Throughout French history, there have been displays of strength that seem to sway away from their reputation as the land of love. Sports in France is a no-nonsense business that steers clear of the croissant and champagne image we all envision. If we venture back to the timeline of the early Nineteen Hundreds, we will visit a prominent year for the Tour de France in French Sports.
If you could picture the landscape and sceneries of the year 1903 you can almost feel the mist of an early morning fog. On the fresh summer day of July 1, 1903, there sat a little café in Montgeron. Outside of its doors on the road that led through the town stood an assembly of hopeful and dedicated men. Sixty Cyclists gathered to make history on that very day. They readied for a challenge that was an unthinkable task… until now. They entered into a journey for fame and glory with twenty thousand francs as the ultimate prize.
Their adventure was to include hundreds of miles and several days of Cycling. There was a minimum amount of scheduled rest stops as they traveled from location to location. In this time period, the roads were unpaved with minimal paths to follow. Without a clear trail, they rode day and night under the heat of the sun and by the light of the moon. In most races we see today, cyclists travel in a team with the ability to pace and help each other. This race proved that all participants were on their own. They were responsible for their individual needs, safety and repairs. In effort to prepare, Cyclists were seen wearing spare bike parts as if they were dressing with adornments or jewelry.
In the first part of the race, a little over one-third of the contenders dropped out of the race. The tough terrain and grueling hours were a difficult road to tow. A few less than ethical Cyclists were disqualified for attempting to cheat their way to the finish line. The use of cars was prohibited as the nature of the competition was with the use of Bicycles. Any deviation from the rules resulted in a thinning of the competition. There were two differing groups who cycled their way to fame. One percentage was sponsored from shops and manufacturers while the others were dedicated enthusiasts. Each Cyclist had their own reasons for being there while only one could win in the end.
The Tour de France Victor
As records were set and the tires made their last hours to the finish, it was Garin who sealed the fate of the race. His closest contender, Pothier, was three full hours behind making it a victorious win for Garin. The original concept of the Tour de France was innovated as a sideline to sell newspapers. The truth is, not only did the papers triple in production… the Tour has been an integral part of the Cycling world for more than a century.