Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Le Tour de France

1st July 1903 - Present Day

Since the 5th July 2014, Le Tour de France has started in England. The tour started in Yorkshire and has made its way down through the country to end at Buckingham Palace, London. This world renown race has been in existence for over 100 years and has highlighted the skill of cycling. Over the years the tour has witnessed various winners, tactics and scandals. It has captured the attention of nations all over the world and continues to excite and surprise spectators. As this month is primarily focused on Le Tour de France, today's blog will join the festivities and give you 15 weird and wonderful facts about the Tour over the past 110 years.

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Le Tour de France logo 
FUN FACTS
  • Whilst the race is 110 years old, only 101 editions have taken place so far. The Tour wasn't running during the two world wars
  • In 1903, Henri Desgrange launched the Tour de France to boost the sales of his newspaper; L'Auto. Henri was in a competition war with another paper and thought the tour would boost his readership. Luckily for him, it was a success
  • The pages of the paper were yellow, thus the leader's jersey colour being yellow
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L'auto, 1903
  • The King of the Mountain jersey is red polka dots because the original sponsor of the jersey, Chocolat Poulain, sold candy bars with polka dot wrapping
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Chocolat Poulain
 
  • The most tour stages won is 34, by Eddy Merckx, AKA 'The Cannibal' 
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The Cannibal
  • There is a 'gentlemen's agreement' within the tour called 'pauses pipi' - quick potty breaks. The cyclists don't attempt to make up time on each other when these breaks are taken
  • During the early years of the tour, gearing systems were banned, which meant that cyclists would have to climb up hills on one single gear. They could, however, stop and remove their chain and flip the wheel to another gear
  • The early years also saw cyclists being their own mechanics. They were expected to make their own repairs, and some riders would even strap tires over their shoulders
  • Contenders in the early tours did not have follow any health and safety regulations. Some riders smoked whilst racing and some would share bottles of wine instead of energy drinks
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Riders seen drinking, carrying and taking wine on the Tour, 1940s/50s

  • As the Tour is such a spectacle, several movement groups have interrupted the race as a demonstration. In 1982, striking steel workers halted the team trial, and in 1990, farmers attempted a blockade 
  • Four cyclists have died during the tour; 
    • Adolphe Heliére, French, drowned whilst swimming on a rest day between stages in the 1910 Tour
    • Francisco Cepeda, Spanish, died after crashing on the decent of the Galibier in the 1935 Tour
    • Tom Simpson, English, died from a combination of heat exhaustion and overuse of stimulants; amphetamines
    •  Fabio Casartelli, Italian, died in a crash in the 1995 Tour
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Heliére, Cepeda, Simpson, Casartelli
  • Henri Desgrange always encouraged the organisers to make the Tour as grueling as possible. He said 'The ideal Tour would be one in which only one rider survived the ordeal'
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Henri Desgrange
  • The average Tour rider burns around 123,000 calories over the 21-day race. That is the equivalent to eating 252 double cheeseburgers from Mcydees!
  • If you were to cycle the entire length of Tour, which is approximately 3,500kms, you would make enough sweat to flush a toilet 39 times. Random, but interesting.
  • One year, rider Mario Cipollini taped a picture of Pamela Anderson to his handlebars, hoping that glimpsing at the Baywatch star would boost his levels of testosterone, thus giving him advantage in the Tour
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Pamela Anderson sticker on Cipollini's bike
The Tour has also seen some characters over the years. The current 'funnyman', in my opinion, is Jens Voigt. His fanbase has grown considerably in recent years and an online soundboard of his funniest quotes has even been made. You can check it out here

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Jens Voigt
There are plenty more unusual and interesting facts surrounding Le Tour de France, and the best place to find them is to watch the Tour yourself. Whilst some people get bored watching it on TV for around 4 hours, with breaks every 5 mins, the Tour is a fascinating example of a sporting competition and will continue to grow in popularity in the years to come.

There is also a competition running this year through ITV. Why don't you enter here, and see if you can win a Boardman roadbike and £10,000?!

Image retrieved from ITV. Will remove at owner's request.
ITV/TDF Competition
Don't forget to follow @Ydaysnews for more historical events each day!


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