The sport known for its famed yellow jersey had its beginnings in an event in 1903; an attempt by a daring French journalist to increase the popularity of the magazine he worked for “L’Auto” by creating a long cycling event that helped increase circulation of the production.
The journalist himself, Henri Desgrange, was one of the contenders in the first Tour, where the Italian Maurice Garin stamped himself in the history books as the first victor of what would later become the Tour de France.
Changes Through Time
Back in 1903, the Tour was highly skewed with Frenchmen whom made over 80% of the sum total of the 60 cyclists. The remaining percentage had riders from Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. However, the Tour now hosts a diversity of cyclists reigning from all corners of the globe.
The early Tour de France tours had riders mainly cycle through relatively flat terrains, where they would cover distances close to 2500 km. We now have Tours that reach 3664 km. And what started out as 6 stage events with 60 riders evolved to 21 stages with 168 riders also traversing through steep mountainous terrains.
The Tour has been a male-focused sport throughout the years of existence, except for one occasion in the 1980’s when a separate women’s competition was held that didn’t gain traction afterwards.
However, 2014 brought a positive turn when the idea of no women being in the Tour de France was challenged. The professional riders: Kathryn Bertine, Emma Pooley, Marianna Vos and Chrissie Wellington promoted a petition to achieve the goal of contesting in a full-circuit Tour de France. This later succeeded in bringing in the same year the La Course by Tour de France, which was a single day event for the women to compete. Further initiatives have been taken to extend this to a weeklong contest.
The Stakes for the Lowest Cycling Time
The Tour is a gauntlet of challenges every rider fights through to reach the other side, with the championing team earning a hefty 2 million Euros in addition to the winning rider of the individual general classification leaving with 450 000 Euros and the enviable yellow jersey, also known as the ‘maillot jaune’.
This wasn’t always the case. In the days of Garin the winner would be awarded with an armband, but that changed in 1919 when Eugene Christophe won the Tour and was awarded the yellow jersey which would become the custom in the decades to follow.
There are a range of other jerseys that are awarded to the riders:
The Green “The Sprinters Jersey”: This is awarded to the winning leader of the point’s classification.
The White Jersey with Red Polka-Dots: Known also as the “Mountains classification jersey” is awarded to the best climber.
The White Jersey: which was initially awarded to the rider who earned the highest position in points gained and climbing classification, was later changed to become the ‘Best Young Rider’ jersey. This jersey is awarded to the best rider in general individual time classification, under the age of 25.
The Tour de France is a paragon of sporting events filled with excitement. It started out with a low number of spectators to becoming a massive competition attracting millions across the globe from their TVs at home to the route itself where, through traditions such as the pre-race signings by the rides, fans can get an up-close look at their cycling heroes. The Tour has come a long way over the many decades of existence, and with recent progresses such as the involvement of women, only a brighter – than yellow – future can await the Tour de France.