Few sporting events are as iconic or as popular as the Tour de France. The world’s most prestigious and difficult bicycle race, the Tour has been held annually since 1903, with only a handful of interruptions for world wars. The race covers more than 2,000 miles of French roads over the course of three weeks and draws more than 12 million spectators each year. Here are five things you didn’t know about the Tour de France.
1. The first Tour de France was held in 1903 to increase newspaper sales.
The first Tour de France was organized by the French newspaper L’Auto in an effort to increase its circulation. The race was a huge success, with more than 60,000 people lining the route to watch the riders. The popularity of the Tour has only grown in the ensuing years, with newspapers and television stations around the world now covering the event.
2. The Tour was originally open to professional cyclists only.
When the Tour de France was first held, it was open only to professional cyclists. In fact, until 1950, the race was closed to amateurs and only open to professionals. It wasn’t until the 1950 Tour that organizers allowed amateurs to compete, and the first amateur to win the Tour was British rider Brian Robinson.
3. The youngest rider to ever compete in the Tour de France was only 15 years old.
In the early years of the Tour, riders as young as 15 were allowed to compete. The youngest rider to ever start the Tour was Italian rider Giovanni Micheletto, who was just 15 years old when he took to the start line in 1909. Micheletto didn’t finish the race, but he holds the record for being the youngest rider to ever start the Tour.
4. The oldest rider to ever compete in the Tour de France was 41 years old.
While the youngest rider to start the Tour was 15 years old, the oldest rider to ever start the race was 41-year-old Frenchman Lucien Petit-Breton. Petit-Breton was a two-time Tour winner, taking victory in 1907 and 1908. He started the 1909 Tour, but did not finish the race.
5. The Tour de France has only been held in France.
Despite its name, the Tour de France has only been held in France. The race has never been held outside of France, though there have been a handful of stages that have been held in neighboring countries. In 1954, the Tour started in Amsterdam and included a stage in Belgium. In 1974, the Tour started in England and included a stage in Wales. And in 1992, the Tour started in Spain and included a stage in Andorra.