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The Tour de France



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Podcast Transcript

In July of yearly, over the course of three weeks, the world’s finest street cyclists assemble in France to compete on this planet’s premier bicycling race: the Tour de France. 

The competitors is among the most grueling in all sports activities and cyclists usually need to endure ranges of ache and exhaustion that are seldom seen elsewhere.

For the reason that inception of the race in 1903, it has seen its share of drama and controversy, generally on account of competitors and generally on account of politics. 

Study extra concerning the Tour de France and its 120-year historical past, on this episode of Every part In every single place Every day.


The origins of the Tour de France usually are not what you may suppose they’re. It wasn’t created by some biking governing physique in France to crown a champion. It was created to promote newspapers. 

Truly, the origin of the race is much more convoluted than that. 

It truly begins with a late Nineteenth-century French scandal often known as the Dreyfuss Affair. 

Alfred Dreyfuss was an officer within the French Military who was accused and convicted of promoting secrets and techniques to the Germans in 1894. This was within the wake of the Franco-Prussian Struggle through which France misplaced just a little greater than 20 years earlier. 

Dreyfuss was Jewish and the proof towards him was very shady, and the entire affair dramatically cut up French society into two camps. In a single camp have been the Dreyfussards who supported Dreyfuss and have been pro-republican, and the anti-Dreyfussards who supported the military and the church. 

Dreyfuss was finally exonerated, and the Dreyfuss Affair might be a future episode. For the needs of this episode, that scandal that cut up French society made its manner into sports activities and media. 

The largest French sports activities newspaper on the time was Le Velo. It was a mix of sports activities and politics that reached about 80,000, and it was a Dryfussard newspaper.

A number of anti-Dryfussard businessmen began their very own newspaper often known as Le Auto-Velo.  Nevertheless, a court docket discovered their title to be too comparable, in order that they dropped the Velo, and shortened it to Le Auto in 1903, which was a mirrored image of the recognition of auto racing on the time.

In 1902, nevertheless, Le Auto wasn’t doing that effectively, in order that they hatched the concept of launching a bicycle race that might happen throughout France.  It could be the most important biking occasion that France had ever seen and Le Auto would have the first protection. They anticipated it to extend gross sales, perhaps sufficient to place Le Velo out of enterprise. 

In 1903, Le Auto launched the primary Tour de France.

The preliminary plan was for a race that might be in 5 phases and can be over a month-long, going from Might 21 to July 5. 

The preliminary proposal solely attracted 15 rivals. 

So that they went again to the drafting board and redesigned the race. Now it will be simply 19 days lengthy, from July 1 to the Nineteenth with six phases. The route can be a giant loop across the nation stopping in Lyon, Marseilles, Bordeaux, and Nantes.

The entry price was minimize in half from 20 to 10 Francs. 

The primary prize was elevated to 12,000 Francs, and every day’s winner would get 3,000 Francs. This was at a time when the common annual wage of a Frenchman was about 2,000 Francs per 12 months. 

Plus a every day stipend can be given to every rider who maintained a tempo of 20 kilometers or 12 miles per hour. The stipend can be the equal to what a manufacturing facility employee would earn, so nobody would lose cash by competing. 

The variety of entries exploded from 15 to 60, with one other 24 cyclists competing in simply single phases. 

The entrants have been all skilled or semi-professional cyclists, nevertheless, most weren’t ready for this kind of race. Solely 24 rivals remained on the finish of the fourth stage. 

The eventual winner, and the winner of three of the phases, was Maurice Garin. 

The aim of the race, rising newspaper gross sales for Le Auto, labored. Circulation for the newspaper doubled all through the course of the race. 

The Tour de France grew to become much more fashionable than anybody ever anticipated. A 3-week-long race all through your entire nation allowed individuals from throughout Frace to witness it in individual and gave everybody within the nation a cause to observe each day. 

In 1904, in simply the second race, the Tour de France grew to become plagued with scandal. 

Some rivals have been discovered slipstreaming in a automotive. Some truly rode in a automotive for a part of the space, and a few truly took a prepare. In a single city, a crowd of 200 individuals gathered to dam different cyclists to assist their hometown hero win. Race officers needed to fireplace photographs into the air. 

Glass and nails have been unfold alongside the course. 

The race was a large number. 

The winner was as soon as once more Maurice Garin. Nevertheless, a number of months after the race the French biking governing physique, the Union Vélocipédique Française, stepped in and the highest 4 finishers have been disqualified as have been all the winners of the person phases. 

The brand new winner, and the one within the books, was Henri Cornet, who initially positioned fifth.

After 1904, the race and the principles modified to keep away from the issues it had early on. 

For starters, there can be extra shorters phases, so cyclists wouldn’t trip in the dead of night. Lots of the issues with dishonest occurred as a result of nobody was round to witness it. If the phases happened solely throughout daylight, extra individuals would come to observe, and it will stop the kind of dishonest that happened. 

In addition they moved to a system of awarding factors for phases as a substitute of simply utilizing the whole time. This was executed as a result of if a bicycle owner had a mechanical drawback, which by the principles they needed to repair by themselves, it might completely take them out of the race given how a lot time it will take to repair. This was deserted in 1912, and total time continues to be used at present to find out the winner.

The race saved on delivering readers for Le Auto. In 1904, their competitor Le Velo went out of enterprise. By 1908, that they had a circulation of a quarter-million. By 1933, that they had a circulation of over 850,000.

Through the years, the race developed slowly. Mountain phases within the Pyrenees have been added in 1910. Initially, riders have been all thought-about to be particular person rivals and also you couldn’t use teammates that can assist you. In 1925, groups have been allowed to tempo their teammates.

In 1937, bicycles with a number of gears have been lastly allowed, and exchanging whole bicycles was allowed in 1923. 

There have been a bunch of experiments concerning how the race was organized and structured, however regardless of the modifications, the race remained extremely fashionable. 

The occasion was canceled in the course of the First World Struggle, however after the warfare, a brand new custom was established. The present chief of the race was awarded a yellow jersey to put on. 

No race was held between 1940 and 1946 as a result of Second World Struggle. 

In 1944, after the liberation of France, Le Auto was shut down by the French authorities for publishing sympathetic feedback concerning the Germans in the course of the occupation.

With the closure of Le Auto, possession of the Tour de France went to the French Authorities.  

The rights have been bought to a brand new newspaper, L’Équipe, which had a few of the sports activities editors from Le Auto.

In 1953 they reintroduced a factors system as a secondary competitors whereas retaining total time as the first competitors. Factors are awarded for putting in particular person phases and sprints. The chief of the factors competitors will get to put on a inexperienced jersey.

Solely 4 instances since 1953 has the factors winner been the general winner. 

Previous to 1962, the one groups that have been allowed have been nationwide groups. The issue was that the variety of riders from every nation was under no circumstances equal, and furthermore, they didn’t compete collectively the remainder of the 12 months. 

With bicycle gross sales falling, they reintroduced groups sponsored by bicycle producers. 

A serious difficulty that has at all times been current within the Tour de France got here to a head in 1967 with the loss of life of British bicycle owner Tom Simpson. 

Simpson died in the course of the thirteenth stage of the race that 12 months climbing Mont Ventoux. Within the post-mortem, they discovered traces of amphetamines and alcohol.

This was hardly the primary case of this. Drug use had been rampant amongst cyclists for the reason that occasion started. 

The 1923 winner Henri Pélissier, informed journalist Albert Londres after the 1924 tour concerning the actuality of the race. Pelissier coined the phrase The Convicts of the Street.

Londres’s printed an interview with Henri, his brother Francis, and their teammate Maurice Ville. In it he reported:

“You haven’t any thought what the Tour de France is”, Henri stated. “It’s a Calvary. Worse than that, as a result of the street to the Cross has solely 14 stations and ours has 15. We endure from the begin to the tip. You wish to know the way we maintain going? Right here…” He pulled a phial from his bag. “That’s cocaine, for our eyes. That is chloroform, for our gums.”

“This”, Ville stated, emptying his shoulder bag “is liniment to place heat again into our knees.”

“And capsules. Do you wish to see capsules? Take a look, listed here are the capsules.” Every pulled out three packing containers.

“The reality is”, Francis stated, “that we maintain occurring dynamite.”

This was in 1924, nearly 100 years in the past. Extra with reference to drug use and doping in a bit.

The late 60s and early 70s noticed the rise of in all probability the best bicycle owner in Tour de France historical past: the Belgian Eddy Merckx. He gained the race 5 instances, three of which he additionally gained the factors standings. He gained the mountain phases twice and gained 34 particular person phases over his profession. 

1986 noticed the primary non-European winner in American Greg LeMond.

Within the early 90s, Spaniard Miguel Indurain grew to become the third five-time winner becoming a member of Eddie Merckx and Bernard Hinault from France. 

One custom which started in 1954 was that in some years, the tour will begin outdoors of France. Many neighboring nations together with Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Monaco, Belgium, the Netherlands the UK, Eire, and Denmark have all hosted the primary stage. 

The fashionable race has 21 phases, with every stage lasting a single day. 

The 2022 race has a complete prize pool of two,288,450 Euro, with half one million going to the winner, 200,000 to the runner-up, and 11,000 to every stage winner. There are different prizes to secondary jersey winners and workforce winners as effectively. 

Hundreds of thousands of individuals will line the route over the 21 days to observe the race in individual, and lots of of them will camp out for over per week to get one of the best spots. 

I ought to return and handle the elephant within the room relating to the Tour de France. Doping and Lance Armstrong. 

American Lance Armstrong gained the race a report seven instances. Nevertheless, his wins have been finally vacated when it was discovered he was utilizing performance-enhancing medicine. 

The issue of doping and drug use, as I famous earlier than, has been occurring for the reason that very first 12 months of the race. At first, it was alcohol and strychnine. For those who bear in mind again to my episode on the 1904 Olympic marathon, they used to suppose that strychnine was a efficiency enhancer. 

Since then nearly each kind of drug conceivable was discovered for use together with opioids. 

In 1969, French bicycle owner Roger Rivière crashed and have become paralyzed as a result of he was so excessive on painkillers he might work the brake together with his palms. 

When Lance Armstrong had his wins erased from the report guide, not like each different occasion earlier than the place the subsequent competitor would then be declared the winner, nobody was declared the winner. There’s only a seven-year gap within the Tour de France report books. 

Why did they do that? As a result of nearly everybody else within the prime ten additionally had optimistic doping outcomes or suspensions sooner or later at effectively.

It didn’t simply finish with Armstrong. In 2006, American Floyd Landis had his title taken away, as did Spain’s Alberto Contador in 2010….though Contador’s 2009 and 2007 wins weren’t vacated. 

Biking has cleaned up its act significantly, however via the 90s and 2000s, biking was in all probability one of many world’s dirtiest sports activities. I gained’t say each profitable bicycle owner was doping, however it certain looks as if the vast majority of the profitable ones did. 

I wish to finish with one significantly fascinating set of info concerning the tour. The quantity of vitality expended by cyclists. 

Driving a motorcycle in a world-caliber competitors for 21 days straight is grueling. The riders expend an infinite quantity of vitality. 

A leisure bicycle owner can put out 250-300 watts of energy for perhaps 20 minutes. Knowledgeable bicycle owner can put out 400, and in short, bursts hit 1000 watts. 

Over the course of the 21 phases over 24 days, the cyclists will burn roughly 120,000 energy or a bit below 6,000 energy per stage. On some phases within the mountains, they might burn 8,000 energy in a day. 

Given the steadily cited variety of 3,500 energy per pound of physique fats, meaning a bicycle owner might lose 34.2 kilos or 15.5 kilograms of fats in a bit over 3 weeks. 

Nevertheless, top-tier athletes like these don’t have that a lot physique fats, in order that they need to eat high-energy meals nearly continuously whereas they’re racing. 

Whereas there are different biking street races, the Tour de France is by far one of the best identified and probably the most prestigious. Regardless of its historical past of controversies, it in all probability will retain its place for a few years to return.



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