Tennis has Wimbledon and cricket has the 'The Ashes' but in cycling, the most well known race is 'Le Tour' otherwise known as The Tour de France. A grueling 21 day multi stage race run in July each year, it is the oldest of three Grand Tours with the other Grand Tours held in Italy and Spain.
The race was founded by the newspaper "L' Auto" whose editor, Henri Desgrange was a keen racing cyclist, and first run in 1903 as a public relations exercise to increase circulation. Lucrative prize money was offered to the winner, which amounted to six times the average industrial wage of the time.
Every year the race prize money has grown to make the winner instantly rich. In 1988 the winner received a car, an apartment and a prestige work of art along with a large cash prize. Since 1990 the prize has been cash only.
The race alternates each year on the direction it takes around France, clockwise one year and anti-clockwise the next. Since 1975, the finish has been on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Each year, there are different stages meaning the length of the race varies at around 3200 kms. Since the 1960s many stages have been run outside France including Belgium, Andorra, Netherlands, Britain and Ireland.
The overall leader of the race and the eventual winner wears the coveted yellow jersey. This is for the rider who complete the stages with the lowest overall time.
The original sponsor, "L' Auto", passed into history after the Second World War and was replaced by L' Equipe whose parent company, ASO, continue to sponsor the event. Participation by up to 22 teams is by invite from ASO and each team has nine cyclists. L'Auto is still remembered as it used to print on yellow paper and this is where the colour of the winners jersey come from.
In 2013 it will be the 100th Tour De France and large celebrations are planned to mark this milestone. If you're planning to witness this wonderful event, why not extend your holiday with a tour around Europe in a brand new Renault. Contact us for more details.