The Tour de France often brings to mind a certain famous rider and all of the celebrity news surrounding the event. The Tour, however, has been around for over a century, and had intense fan followings long before the media created the modern image of the race.
The first Tour de France was in 1903, and after offering a generous prize and a daily allowance of five francs, the competition attracted nearly 80 riders. Starting out in a small French village, the Tour ended in Paris like every Tour since. Riders raced for 19 days, with bicycles that were less than optimal for climbing mountains and navigating night rides. On some stretches of the course they were even required to use wooden wheels! The tires of the day could not withstand quick descents without overheating and separating from the metal rim.
The Tour de France was the first major race to introduce timed trials as the method for choosing a winner. Timed trials are the standard in all forms of bicycle racing today, from downhill mountain biking to road tours around the globe. The Tour also introduced different types of team racing, some years as national teams, other years as trade teams, and with ever-changing rules for how riders function within a team. This important race has been a trend setter since its inception, and will continue to be a touchstone for how bicycle racing is done in the future.
Despite the prestige of the Tour de France, the race has had its setbacks. The Tour was suspended twice for the World Wars, suffered through many doping scandals in the 1960s, and has dealt with maintaining a public image all these years through political differences, pressure from sponsors, and some of the most enthusiastic and intense fan bases in sports (even in 1904 riders would get pummeled by rival fans!). Most recently, “bike doping” has popped up on the list of controversies – some suspect riders of using tiny motors to help power their cranks. Whatever the current controversy may be, the Tour de France is sure to outlive it. The race, after all, was begun in 1903 because its organizer, Henri Desgrange, could think of no better way to draw attention to a French political scandal.
At Ornamentshop.com we have a fun selection of bicycle themed ornaments which can be personalized with your own message. Each “cyclist” can be hand painted with the name of your own little bike rider, or your favorite Tour rider. Vive le Tour!