Tour de France history: All the facts and details discussed

Tour de France history: All the facts and details discussed

Lenah Ann
May 16, 2024 at 5:57 PM

The Tour de France is a popular cycling race and one of the world's biggest annual sporting events. Although the sport started as a national affair, it has grown and attracted a global fanbase due to advancing technology in recent years. The Tour de France history details how the sport came to be and its challenges over the years.

Riders taking part in the Tour de France competition
Riders participate in the Tour de France Saitama Criterium cycling race in Saitama on 5 November 2023. Photo: Richard A Brooks (Modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

Table of Сontents:

Since its inception, the sport has witnessed tremendous growth and changes. For instance, riders used to participate as individuals with no team support. Currently, all participants are required to belong to a cycling team. Here are all the facts and details you need to know about the renowned sporting event.

History of Tour de France

According to Continental, the famous cycling race was founded in 1903 by journalists and business people who had set up a daily sports newspaper, L'Auto. The main aim of the race was to overtake its competitor, Le Vélo, the largest and best-selling daily sports newspaper in France at that time.

Due to low sales, L'Auto called a crisis meeting on 20 November 1902 to devise strategies for the takeover. At the meeting, they agreed to emulate a lengthy long-distance cycling race, which was announced on 19 January 1903.

Dutch cycling team presented at Tour de France 1964
Dutch cycling team presented at Tour de France 1964, during a training ride near Breda on 23 March 1964. Photo: Sepia Times/Universal Images
Source: Getty Images

Since its inception, the race has been held annually, with the only exception being during the World Wars. The inaugural winner was Maurice Garin, who took home 3,000 francs (approximately $12,800 today).

Purpose of Tour de France

The primary aim of the Tour de France was to establish L'Auto as France's top-selling daily sports newspaper after dissatisfaction with its sales, which were far lower than those of its rivals, and to encourage bicycle-based mobility.

Origin of Tour de France

The event's origin is attributed to the rivalry between two sporting newspapers, Le Vélo and L'Auto. To do better in the industry than their rivals, L'Auto officially announced the race on 19 January 1903.

Tour de France historical winners

Davide Formolo, Alvaro Hodeg, Ivo Oliveira and Tadej Pogacar celebrate
(L-R) Davide Formolo of Italy, Alvaro Hodeg of Colombia, Ivo Oliveira of Portugal and, Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia and UAE Team Emirates celebrate on 29 October 2023. Photo: Dario Belingheri
Source: Getty Images

Since its commencement in 1903, the famous sport has had a winner each year. Some cyclists have made history by winning multiple times. Below is a table of countries with the number of wins their riders have brought home, according to Cycling News.


Number of wins

Number of winning cyclists













Great Britain






United States of America



























Facts about the Tour de France

Over the years, the race has grown from a national affair to attracting billions of fans worldwide. Also, cyclists are safer now on the roads, more professional, and less wild. Here are all the facts about the renowned cycling race.

  • The race takes place in the cities, towns, mountains, and countryside of France, but it starts in a foreign country.
  • The sport has been held every year since it was officially sanctioned in 1903, except during the two world wars.
  • The race does not take a designated route. Every year, the route and length changes.
  • During the race, different prizes are won. In addition to the overall race, there are prizes for daily winners and those who come first in different terrain.
  • The first race was a publicity stunt!
  • There is also a women's race. There were races between 1984 and 1989, but they were unsuccessful due to a lack of funding. However, efforts were still made, and in 2022, a new competition was devised, Tour de France Femmes. It takes eight days and commences on the final day of the men's race.
  • The sport is challenging and dangerous.
  • Depending on the terrain, they use more than one bicycle to complete the course.
  • The athletes need a lot of energy to compete.
  • It is a team sport.
  • The riders get very sweaty.

Frequently asked questions

The Tour de France is a popular race in France and worldwide. The 2023 edition attracted a domestic viewership of 42.5 million, as reported by Sports Pro Media. Here are the frequently asked questions about the competition's history.

Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark leading the team
Jonas Vingegaard of Denmark and Team Jumbo-Visma, wearing the Yellow Leader Jersey with teammates, leading the peloton on 21 July 2023 in Poligny, France. Photo: Michael Steele.
Source: Getty Images

Is there an entry fee for the Tour de France?

As per Pedalsure, the famous race does not charge any penny as a fee for participation. Fans also do not buy tickets to watch it.

What do the coloured jerseys mean?

According to BBC, four jerseys are up for grabs to winners representing different categories. They are:

  • Yellow is for the winner of the day's race.
  • Green is the sprinter's jersey.
  • Polka Dot is for winners who cycle up the mountain.
  • White is for the under-25 riders who are near the front.

How long is the Tour de France?

The cycling competition takes place every July over 21 days and consists of one stage each day with two official rest days in between. Cyclists typically complete each stage in five to six hours. The event covers approximately 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometres) in total.

Where does the Tour de France always end?

Since 1975, the concluding stage of the Tour de France has been on the Champs-Élysées, a symbolic street in Paris.

What are the requirements for the Tour de France?

Being one of the world's most challenging and reputable sporting events, the Tour de France is only open to teams of the best riders with high positions in the International Cycling Union and several continental teams.

The competition is not individual, so each cyclist must belong to a team and have well-defined strengths that enable them to flourish in the different stages of the race.

Final word

The Tour de France history and facts reflect the event's growth and success throughout the years. The cycling competition has gained regard and admiration due to its impact on all the participating teams across the globe.

READ ALSO: 10 oldest sports in the world: When were they invented?

Sports Brief has compiled a list of the ten oldest sports in the world, detailing their origin. Different types of sports have various ways and rules for playing them. Over the years, athletes have transformed them into full-time professions and, without a doubt, some of the highest-paying careers in the world. Click on the link above for more details.

Lenah Ann photo
Lenah Ann
Lenah Ann is a Kenyan-based content creator with 2 years of experience. She graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Media and Communication from Dedan Kimathi, Kenya in 2021.