First edition: The start of something Big
Though the overall distance of the first Tour de France in 1903 was 1,000km less than this year's edition, the average length of a stage was 400km as compared to 171km.
France's Maurice Garin (left), nicknamed ‘Chimney Sweep’
was the winner that year, clocking an average speed of 25.768km/h over the 2,428km. There were 60 riders in the first edition of the famous event which was started as a publicity stunt by French newspaper L’Auto in order to increase its circulation.
The event was originally scheduled to run in June but was postponed by a month. Only five nations were represented that year; 49 French riders, 4 Belgians, 4 Swiss, 2 Germans and one Italian. Just a week before the event, only 15 riders had signed up to take part, causing the organizers to substantially increase the total prize money.
Garin and the other pre-race favourite Hippolyte Aucouturier of France won five of the six stages of the race, with Garin winning three and Aucouturier two. It was Garin, however, who held the overall lead all the way through the event to etch his name into cycling history. The participating cyclists were also feted.
Tour de Lance
Lance Armstrong's first win at the event in 1999 was lauded by the sports fraternity due to his recovery and comeback from cancer. Detractors, however, were quick to point out that Germany's Jan Ulrich was absent from the Tour de France that year. Those detractors were left without any ammunition in the following six years when Armstrong made the event his own. Such was his domination at the event, that even after he retired following his win in 2005, he was able to finish third overall when he made his comeback in 2009.