The original race in 1903 took riders on a 2,428 km tour that closely followed the contours of France’s borders. The sixty competing cyclists on the first stage alone were required to cover nearly 470km in one day, and in an age of basic materials.
The punishing race drew a large audience, and it proved that some people are just built to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.
Green Jerseys go to the overall points winner in the tour, as was the case with the race when it started in 1903. The first few Tour De France races used to present its winner with a green armband. Armbands are used to this day signify a connection to a group, association, or the military.
The Armlet or Brassard would be indicated the rank. In this case, the rank would be the winner of the first Tour de France and it was visible to the other riders, so they knew who they had to beat.
Apparently, some riders did not like the armlets colour or size, due to it being difficult to see at night.
The Maillot Jaune
Many possible origins for the Yellow jersey have been rumoured. The Yellow jersey is awarded to the overall leader of the tour and it is still the most sought-after prize of a professional cyclist.
It was not until 1919 that the yellow jersey was introduced. One of the theories is that the jersey was yellow because of the L’Auto, the struggling magazine that organised the event, printed on yellow paper.
A different theory is that Peugeot, a major sponsor of the race, use yellow in their logo and tried to present a jersey promoting the manufacturer’s revolutionary bicycles and motorcycle designs.
The red-polka-dot jersey goes the King of the Mountains. Pure white jerseys to the best under the 26-year-old rider. It is possible to win combinations of these jerseys with exception to the Red Lantern.
This is the French version of the wooden spoon, and signifies the red light hanging at the back of a vehicle. As with Formula one, the team can also win Jerseys, and in a similar vein to formula one most people turn off the tv before these are handed out.
By the 1920s the stages had been increased from 6 into 15 covering an inconceivable 5,500 km, and reducing the number of rest days between stages, from 3 down to 2.
The longest stage went from Les Sables d’Olonne to Bayonne at a distance of 482 Km. L’Auto seemed to be throwing greater challenges at its riders each year, to push the boundaries of what was possible.
By the 30s the race had increased to 21 stages, reducing the length of each stage, the longest being 322 km, the total course covered 4,822 km. The Tour de France still closely followed the contours of France’s borders and the tradition that people associate with the race.
World War II caused disruption to the sport, as the organiser refused to bow to the Nazi wishes to proceed. The 1942 race that did go ahead, was apparently run under the duress of the Gestapo, and was marred by poor organisation.
By the 50s, the tour had gone back into full swing, with the race still following the border of France, but also crossed into Belgium. Races have since started from Rotterdam, Berlin, making this more of an international race, rather than being purely focused on France.
Yellow Jerseys all round
This year celebrates 100 years of The Maillot Jaune [ Yellow Jersey], as 176 competitors rally to win the 2019 race that will be watched live by 13 million people.
To celebrate, the race will award a personalised yellow jersey to the winner of each stage of the race. Each jersey will be made specific to the stage won and will have a symbol representative of the are the stage goes through.
The 2019 Tour De France race will last 3 weeks, cover a gruelling 3,480Km (2162Miles), and take cyclists over 2770metres (1.7Miles), up into the Graian Alps through the Col de l’Iseran, ending in a sprint to Paris.
2019 Tour de France starts with two stages in Belgium, one 120km run from Bruxelles, and the other a 27.5km time-trial to the Brussel Atomium.
The third stage from Binche in Belgium will take the riders over the border to start the French leg of the tour. The race will continue for 3 weeks, up to the Iseran pass, through to the east, followed by a flight to Rambouillet to finish the race in Paris.
Below, are the 23 stages with respective links to the official Tour de France pages for each stage:
1. 6th July 194.5km BRUXELLES > BRUSSEL 2. 7th July 27.6km BRUXELLES PALAIS ROYAL > BRUSSEL ATOMIUM 3. 8th July 215.0km BINCHE > ÉPERNAY 4. 9th July 213.5km REIMS > NANCY 5. 10th July 175.5km SAINT-DIÉ-DES-VOSGES > COLMAR 6. 11th July 160.5km MULHOUSE > LA PLANCHE DES BELLES FILLES 7. 12th July 230.0km BELFORT > CHALON-SUR-SAÔNE 8. 13th July 200.0km MÂCON > SAINT-ÉTIENNE 9. 14th July 170.5km SAINT-ÉTIENNE > BRIOUDE 10. 15th July 217.5km SAINT-FLOUR > ALBI 11. 16th July Rest ALBI 12. 17th July 167km ALBI > TOULOUSE 13. 18th July 209.5km TOULOUSE > BAGNÈRES-DE-BIGORRE 14. 19th July 27.2km PAU > PAU 15. 20th July 117.5km TARBES > TOURMALET BARÈGES 16. 21st July 185.0km LIMOUX > FOIX PRAT D'ALBIS 17. 22nd July Rest NÎMES 18. 23rd July 177.0km NÎMES > NÎMES 19. 24th July 200.0km PONT DU GARD > GAP 20. 25th July 208.0km EMBRUN > VALLOIRE 21. 26th July 126.5km SAINT-JEAN-DE-MAURIENNE > TIGNES 22. 27th July 130.0km ALBERTVILLE > VAL THORENS 23. 28th July 128.0km RAMBOUILLET > PARIS CHAMPS-ÉLYSÉES
Modern bicycles are far beyond the financial reach of the keen amateur, prices are upwards from $10,000 and require a team of mechanics to keep the machine at its full potential.
A Hundred Years
As with all the Tour de France races, the final stage finishes in the capital, Paris. There will be tears of happiness, sadness and a few people will end up in the hospital.
Since the race was created over 100 years ago, manufacturers and doctors have sought to improve the efficiency of the athlete’s muscles.
There is no doubt that with new materials, making the bikes nearly weightless, riders will continue to break speed records. Training techniques are now so finely tuned that, their legs are built purely for peddling.
It is a fascinating time to watch such a race and for those of us that have no experience participating in professional sport, we can only sit back and wonder, ‘How do they do it?’
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