The story of Le Tour

Follow the links below for stories, photographs, and race details of the Tour de France, year by year.

The story of the origins of the Tour de France: an epic tale of a intrigue amongst rival newspapers against a backdrop of deep political division in France.

1903 Victory for the Little Chimney Sweep: The first Tour took just six stages to complete the hexagon, resulting in a convincing win for Maurice Garin, perhaps road cycling's first great champion.
1904 "The Tour is finished...": One year later and the race was nearly finished by cheating riders and rioting spectators. Another easy win for Garin? Well, not exactly!
1905 A new formula is devised: A major rethink saw the race organised on points, with more stages, but no night riding. The new formula, saved the race, which thereafter never looked back.
1906 The first climbing star is born: Rene Pottier dominated in 1906, the year that saw the Tour's first true mountain stages, and the first excursion out of France. But Pottier's life was to be a tragically short one...
1907 Victory to "the Argentine": 1907 saw victory go to Lucien Petit-Breton, nicknamed "the Argentine", after his rival Emile Georget was demoted for an illegal bike change.
1908 Petit-Breton becomes the first double winner: If his 1907 victory had left something to chance, in 1908 Petit-Breton left no-one in doubt as to his class as he became the first man to win the Tour de France twice.
1909 Faber is the first non-French winner: With the Tour decided on a points formula, the crushing regularity of François Faber won the day - six wins in fourteen stages left no hope for his opposition.
1910 The "Assassins" send the race to the Pyrenees: After an epic struggle through snow, Henri Desgrange's emmissary reported that the Tourmalet and Aubisque would be suitable for a cycle race. A month later, all a grimy Octave Lapize could shout out at the summit of the climb was "assassins"; he won the race neverthless.
1911 Faber meets his Galibier: For 1911, Henri Desgrange sent the Tour over the 2556 metre Col du Galibier, at the time, the highest road the Tour had ever ridden. The overall winner was Gustave Garrigou, but not before a race of drama that saw his closest rival poisoned while crossing the Pyrenees...
1912 Belgian victory foreshadows problems to come: A strong Belgian contingent was easily able to contain the challenge of the weakly supported French riders as the race was still based on points rather than time. Change was just around the corner.
1913 Eugène Christophe, Ste. Marie de Campan and the forge: One of the most famous incidents in the Tour's history: when Christophe's forks broke on a mountain descent, there was nothing for it but to collect the pieces, find a forge and effect a repair - all under the beady eye of Henri Desgrange!
1914 Thys in spite of Pélissier: Once again Philippe Thys won the Tour, but not after a storming ride by Henri Pélissier, one of the greatest - and most misunderstood - riders of all time.
1915 - 1918 There was no Tour de France from 1915 to 1918.
1919 Christophe in Yellow - but not in Paris: After the Tour itself, Henri Desgrange's masterstroke was to invent the Yellow Jersey, the most potent symbol in cycling. Here is how it came about, in perhaps the hardest Tour of all time.
1920 Thys becomes the first triple winner: Philippe Thys was the Tour's first triple winner, and honour he clinched in a hard-fought race against the best Belgian and French riders of the day.
1921 Scieur continues the Belgian domination: A typical Tour of the era: hard roads, harsh rules and even tougher riders. Scieur was one of the toughest of them all.
1922 Lucky Lambot becomes the Tour's oldest winner: Lucky, perhaps, to be consistent where others were alternately brilliant and dreadful, but no winner of the Tour could truthfully be called lucky, least of all when the route contained the mighty Col d'Izoard, climbed for the first time in 1922.
1923 Pélissier gets his revenge: Henri Pélissier was the most talented rider of his generation, but also one of the most easily riled. Finally in 1923 he won "his" Tour, with a bravura display of riding through the Alps.
1924 Le Tour de Souffrance: "The ideal Tour would be a Tour in which only one rider survived the ordeal", wrote Henri Desgrange, and never was this axiom more closely adhered to than in 1924, the infamous Tour de Souffrance of Albert Londres, where the original Forçats de la Route were forged.
1925 Once again Bottecchia: Victory once again to the Italian Ottavio Bottecchia, who was to die in mysterious circumstances just two years later: to this day no-one knows whether he had an accident or was murdered whilst out training.
1926 The longest Tour: Not only the longest Tour, but one plagued by bad whether. After the first Pyreneen stage, raced over five cols in a blizzard, just 10 riders finished within an hour of stage winner Lucien Buysse.
1927 Alcyon deliver victory: 1927 saw Henri Desgrange introduce a primitive form of Team Time Trial, a formula which handed victory on a plate to Nicholas Frantz of Alcyon, the strongest team in the sport.
1928 Frantz on a woman's bike...: Frantz and Alcyon triumphed once again, but only after Frantz had completed the final 100 kilometres of a stage riding a woman's bicycle...
1929 "A moribund winner": "How can a man lose the Tour de France because of an accident to his bike?", wrote Louis Delblat. "The rules should provide for a back-up vehicle with spare bikes on board. You lose the Tour to a better rider; you should not lose it because of a stupid accident to your bike". Obvious perhaps, but exactly this happened in 1929.
1930 The coming of national teams: In an effort to break the dominance of the major manufacturers, teams, Desgranges revolutionised the event - out went the trade teams, in came national teams, anonymous bikes and a publicity caravan. United, the top French riders rode their hearts out to deliver a resounding success for the themselves, and the new formula.
1931 Magne makes his mark: Another year, another French victory, this time for "The Taciturn" Antonin Magne.
1932 A bonus for Leducq: André Leducq was soon back, profiting from six stage wins to win easily over his nearest rival in a battle of the stage winner's bonus minutes.
1933 Speicher continues the French dominance: Georges Speicher continued the French run of success in 1933. But controversially, he was not picked for the French team for the World Championships. A last minute call-up saw him go on to complete the first Tour / Worlds' double.
1934 Vietto's great sacrifice: When the French selectors picked a young southerner named Vietto for the team in 1934, they were roundly criticised - all the more so after he fell way behind early on in the race. Yet Vietto's name was to become one of the most famous associated with the Tour.
1935 Maes from beginning to end: The French domination of the early thirties was comprehensively broken, as Belgians took four of the top five places overall. The winner was Romain Maes, who followed Garin, Thys, Bottecchia and Frantz in leading from beginning to end.
1936 Sylvère takes over where Romain left off: Maes again, this time Sylvère, who won with a dominant display in the mountains.
1937 Lapébie wins after the Belgians withdraw: Sylvère Maes was all set to win again, but withdrew whilst leading after tempers flared around a time penalty imposed on him. This left the way clear for victory by Roger Lapébie - provided he could prevent his rivals from sabotaging his bicycle at night...
1938 A final fling for les Bleus: The beginning and the end: no more Touristes-Routiers, but the first victory for Gino Bartali, whose greatest moment was still to come.
1939 "Le Roi René" and the regionals: Sylvère Maes won again, but once again the public's hero was Vietto, leading Desgrange's newest innovation - regional teams.
1940 - 1946 The Tour de France during the War: No Tours de France, but racing went on, before emerging from the dark shadow of war for the triumphal return of 1947.
1947 Robic snatches it at the death: "The miracle of Bonsecours" is still talked about: Jean Robic's impetuous attack which won him the Tour de France on the final stage.
1948 Bartali saves Italy: Not just another win for Bartali; nor even one of the greatest ever victories, but one with a deeper significance - as his country teetered on the edge of civil war, it seemed only a Bartali victory could prevent a descent into madness in Italy.
1949 Coppi's double: Fausto Coppi's first ride in the Tour only took place after patient negotiation between Coppi, Bartali and team manager Alfredo Binda. But with what result did Fausto take to the roads of France!
1950 Kübler wins after the Italian withdraw: Another controversial Tour saw Bartali punched to the ground and threatened with a dagger on the Col d'Aspin. He got up to win the stage, and then withdrew, with all his teammates, claiming their lives were in danger.
1951 Brive - Agen: Koblet's grand exploit: The single greatest exploit in the history of the Tour de France? Raphaël Geminiani certainly thought so. Afterwards he said, "If there were two Koblets in the sport I would retire from cycling tomorrow"
1952 "The lamb transformed into a lion": The sublime Coppi victory, moving away withsuch insouciance whenever the road went upwards that André Leducq was moved to write of "the lamb was transformed into a lion"
1999 Tour of redemption?: After the traumas of 1998, the Tour needed a great champion to restore the faith. And who better than a rider who less than two years previously had been given a less than 20% chance of survival from cancer, the great taboo of modern society?