A look back at the Tour’s great history.
The Tour de France race has a long and fascinating history. Here’s a little piece that pays tribute to the legends of the sport, long before the modern era of cycling that we know today:
There is a pretty good reason they used some “gunpowder” in the old days on the tour and a less good reason to do so in these times, just as the clearance rate for doping is a bit higher and riders. Whoever does dope today loses total respect in the media and the prize money is sharply pursued by fines, etc. So are the sponsorships subsequently.
But they were some tough guys back then, taking the drugs available at the time from a brunch buffet, like arsenic, cocaine, caffeine, amphetamine, strychnine, alcohol, ether, etc. There were no disillusioned Russian chemists or doctors as “consultants” on the team with their own abuse that could only be maintained due to a foresighted educational choice. It was unnecessary. It was the wild west of the Tour de France.
Some of the “gunpowder” was as deadly as arsenic, whose positive function was to get tired muscles working again, and in just slightly larger doses is pretty deadly. Some of that “gunpowder” was completely ineffective and yes, it probably also worked sometimes or temporarily, because how could you otherwise cope with these inhuman hardships that make today’s riders look like the well-trained version of the weekend exercisers on their way to a goal of 50 km away. Ok, that was perhaps a bit exaggerated, maybe over the line, but read on.
How about 400 km a day on a heavy old bike with one gear? The Tour de France race was tough and hurt to the bones
The longest stages today on the Tour de France are about 220 – 240 km. 2018, the longest stage is 231 km. During the first Tour de France race in 1903, the 1st stage was an amazing 467 km. from Paris to Lyon, then we as cyclists are getting started and our legs are probably warmed up. It was also normal with stages of over 400 km. In 1904 there were 4 of them. And the bikes? They weighed slightly more than today’s minimum weight of 7 kilos. It was just like solid garden gates made by the local blacksmith. It was with primitive bike rims, and wooden wheels and they rode without bike gear. Without gear? Well what about the mountain tapes, yes they were without gears. Not easy to grasp.
The maniacs drove several 100 km in the mountains in one gear. You (no not you, they did) fight you up and on the descent, you can not relax because the pedals drive around at insane speed when you drive 80 km/hour. They are also your only brake! Single gear bikes are today the highest rave, and a Swiss has actually as a unique sporting achievement completed one of the stages from that time on a single gear bike (that story can be found on Netflix), but in a modern version. Spoiler alert: The small hilly mountains eventually that went up and down all the time were the hardest. And notice “one stage”. And that it was on a state-of-the-art bike. Back to the good old days:
The Tour de France race should have talked to the French Road Administration back in the day
There are several arguments for the conclusion that comes at the end. The roads back then in 1904 did not have the latest smooth, sound-absorbing asphalt. Road safety, especially in the mountains, was absent. It was bumpy, potholed, sometimes unpaved roads, and they rode with extra bike tires over their shoulder in dust and dung and they probably thought “I’m really poorly paid”. Bicycle gear was first allowed in 1937 on the tour. And the bicycle helmet was not really in fashion or widespread or known.
Electronics to measure everything you do from heart rate to sweat and a safe annoying team leader in your ear day and night that details your driving and your life in detail, and dictatorial gram for gram diet guidance and physiotherapists with eager hands. The army of embracing sports psychologists, in turn, was spared. People smoked and drank according to a completely different private and cozy diet plan, probably also sitting on the single gear bike. A little hiss, tar-black Gauloises and a cognac in the can never hurt anyone! Now there is only 300 km left.
So are they not forgiven in the early races of the Tour de France race that they took some “gunpowder” along the way? Honor be to the memory of the tough dogs.
Let’s get that race back and see you on the TV screen every 21 days 🙂
Enjoy the route in 2018 from a traveler’s perspective, so many beautiful
Check out a special Loire Valley Cycling tour.
Enjoy the route of 2018 from a traveler´s perspective, so many beautiful things to see in the France of the tour. Tour de France 2018
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