July 2016: The Tour de France
The 103th Tour de France will run from Saturday 2nd to Sunday 24th July. It will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3.519 km.
The Tour de France was created in 1903 and its roots can be traced to the emergence of two French rival sports newspapers: Le Vélo and L'Auto.
L'Auto was not the success its backers wanted, so its young cycle editor Géo Lefèvre suggested a six-day race of the sort popular on the track, but all around France. Long-distance cycle races were a popular means to sell more newspapers, but nothing of the length that Lefèvre suggested had ever been attempted. If successful, it would help L'Auto match its rival and perhaps put it out of business.
The first Tour de France ran from 1st to 19th July in six stages over 2,428 km and was won by Maurice Garin. Many riders dropped out of the race after completing the initial stages - only 24 entrants remained at the end of the fourth stage. But the race was an instant success and L'Auto's mission was accomplished as throughout the race circulation of the publication doubled.
The Tour de France has over the years been associated with nearly superhuman sporting achievements and in recent days more and more with doping scandals, but let us here enjoy the incredible drama and excitement of the biggest cycle race in the world.