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Tour De France: 5 lesser known facts


Tour De France: 5 lesser known facts

Every year, the Tour De France shakes up the cycling world! And after the kind of year, we’ve had… How excited are we for this year’s edition? Team Bikmo are all about the TDF, with discussions in the office about our favourite riders to taking part in our fantasy league. There’s always lots to report about race and everything around the world’s most famous cycling event, but can you imagine over a 100 years ago how it was organised for the first time? Just after the turn of the century, a few individuals just decided to race through day and night, across of whole of France. That’s impressive in itself. Do you think they would have known what would be created as a result?

Lesser known facts about the Tour De France – a single speed endurance race, turned biggest cycling event of all times

We thought it would be more interesting to dig a bit deeper into the history and have a look at some of the lesser known facts, that you may not have come across before. For example. do you know what Eddy Merckx’s full name is? Not really? Let’s get to it.

tour de france 2018 photo by howard lawrence
Photo: Howard Lawrence

Some basics facts about this years Tour de France

  • 29th August to 20th September
  • 23 days – 21 stages
  • 3,470 km
  • 29 mountain climbs (2nd category or above)
  • 6 summit finishes

If you’re looking for a more detailed plan, check out the official page of the Tour de France to get further information and see all the different stages on a map.

Have you ever looked at their videos of Top Moments? We reckon they can be pretty helpful, especially if you are not a proper roadie! They will give you the right knowledge to impress your friends as you sit on the sofa whilst watching the big race.

And now some lesser known facts about the Tour De France

Did you know….

  • The ultra-endurance event on a single speed… Up until 1937, no derailleurs were allowed!
  • Eddy Merckx full name is Édouard Louis Joseph Baron Merckx.
  • Up to the 1960s, it was completely normal to drink alcohol during the race, as it supposedly made it easier to deal with all the pain and suffering.
  • Originally starting with 14 rest days in total, there are now only 2 left during the tour! Although the riders now don’t have to do as many kilometres…
  • The lowest number of participants was in 1919 – where only 10 people took part.
  • At the start of the Tour de France, all riders had to cycle through the whole day, heading off very early morning and each stage not ending until very late into night.

France 100 years ago

Why did it start in 1903? That is a good question, let’s take a closer look…

Modernity had slowed down, industrialisation had conquered most parts of Europe, and the non-federal bourgeoise had developed itself as a sturdy and wealthy class in French society. As a result, the idea of leisure became a more popular phenomenon in French society – and not only for the well-situated people, as workers gradually enjoyed a marginal reduction in their working hours too.

So, what to do next after work and family life? Spectator events have always created excitement for all sorts of people, not only in France. However, French brands such as Hirondelle made cycling more and more accessible and not only for wealthy people. Henceforth, the cycling industry grew and the interest for the sport increased.

Manufactures began to offer a range of models to their increasingly diverse clientele. In 1893 the Hirondelle company offered…

démocratique model (185 francs) targeted at artisans, workers, and employees;

a service administratif model (280 francs) for mailmen, bailiffs, delivery men, and brought surveyors;

routier models with air-filled tires (300 and 380 francs) for travelling salespeople, veterinarians, and doctors; and a 385-franc model designed for soldiers, tourists, and hunters.

Finally, there were two top, extra-supérieur models intended for bicycle tourists, typically members of the upper classes. By 1909 one could purchase a new
Clément bicycle in the northern mining community of Longwy-Bas for 150 francs and a used one for only fifty”

Factories that used to produce weapons during the 1870s war needed to change the industry. So why not getting into the steel bike industry? And as people enjoyed riding, hitting higher speeds and racing each other, the Tour de France was quickly born. Thank you Henri Desgrange.

tour de france 2018 alex broadway aso
Photo: Alex Broadway/ASO

Where we got our facts from:

Christopher S. Thompson, The Tour de France, A Cultural Study (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press 2006)