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June 1, 2015

Old Photos of the First Tour de France in 1903

The 1903 Tour de France was the first cycling race set up and sponsored by the newspaper L'Auto, ancestor of the current daily, L'Équipe. It ran from 1 to 19 July in six stages over 2,428 km (1,509 mi). Compared to modern stage races, the stages were extraordinarily long, with an average distance of over 400 km (250 mi), compared to the 171 km (106 mi) average stage length in the 2004 Tour de France; cyclists had one to three rest days between each stage, and the route was largely flat, with only one stage featuring a significant mountain.

60 cyclists, all professionals or semi-professionals, started the race, of whom 49 were French, 4 Belgian, 4 Swiss, 2 German, and one was Italian, Maurice Garin, the pre-race favourite who eventually went on to win the event. The cyclists were not grouped in teams but raced as individuals, and paid a fee of ten francs (€87.50 at 2003 prices) to compete in the race for general classification, or five francs to enter a single stage. Because the stages were so long, all but the first started before dawn: the last stage started at 21:00 the night before.

The riders get ready to start. Note that what constitutes effective cycle clothing hadn't been settled.

1903 Tour winner Maurice Garin having a smoke. Pictured with him are his son (on right with little bike) and his masseur.

Typical feed zone in 1903.

Desgrange's 60-man peloton riding together.

The first kilometre in the history of cycle racing Tour de France.

The first stage finish line in Lyon.

Leon Georget finishes third in the first stage, 34 minutes, 59 seconds behind stage winner Garin. Georget would drop out of the Tour in stage 5.

The finish in Bordeaux, which saw the first ever foreign winner of a stage, the Swiss Charles Laeser.

Maurice Garin, in his trademark white coat and flat cap racing in the '03 Tour.

Maurice Garin

Maurice Garin is greeted by enthusiastic fans.

1903 Tour de France winner Maurice Garin.

The wining scene at the finish of the first Tour. In the middle on the right: the winner, Maurice Garin, to his left: most likely Leon Georget.

Leon Georget signs in under the watchful eye of an official. To minimize cheating riders signed in a stops along each stage.

Willie Hume

Fernand Augereau

Maurice Garin pictured after his victory in the first stage.

Lucien Pothier.

Marcel Kerff

Tour de France 1903. Advertising of the first cycle racing.


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