10 unbelievable facts about the Tour de France

10 unbelievable facts about the Tour de France

10 unbelievable facts about the Tour de France

1 The Tour de France was first held in 1903 as a publicity stunt to help promote sales of a newspaper: "L'Auto". This was actually a general sports magazine which also covered cycling: not something that's reflected in its title! It was originally called "L'Auto-Velo" but the name was too similar to its rival newspaper, "Le Velo", and so the Parisian courts ruled that the name be changed.

The cycle race was suggested by a writer on the magazine, to help improve sales. And it was a success: circulation leapt from 25,000 to 65,000 after the first race in 1903. Sales increased year on year, reaching 854,000 in 1933.

2 It's thought that the well-known yellow jersey (given to the cyclist with the shortest race time over all stages), was introduced in 1919. And the reason for it being yellow? The rival newspaper, "Le Velo" was printed on green paper, so "L'Auto" was printed on yellow! 

3 Tour De France cyclists used to smoke in order to "open" their lungs. It has been said that riders also used to fill their water bottles with wine! Alcohol was seen as a performance booster. 

"Go on mate, have a puff and you'll feel better"

4 A LOT of cheating used to go on... the nighttime ride was stopped after the second year (1904) because passions ran high and riders were getting beaten up by rival fans under the cover of darkness.

5 The race was nearly cancelled in 1904 because cyclists caught trains and cars in order to finish ahead of the pack. 13 Riders were disqualified, including the first four who made it across the finish line. Even the eventual winner (he orignally came in 5th, and was actually the youngest ever winner at 19) recieved a warning! 

6 Cyclists used to take all sorts of things to help their performance. In 1924, infamous professional cyclist Henri Pelissier won the Tour De France. He later revealed to a journalist the way cyclists kept going: "Cocaine for our eyes and chloroform for our gums."

7 The green jersey, known as 'malliot vert' is the sprinter's jersey. It was introduced in 1953 for the 50th anniversary and it was green because the race was sponsored by a lawnmower manufacturer. It is awarded to the rider who has gained the most points for sprints. 

8 The polka dot jersey is given to the "King of the Mountains" rider. It's known as the 'maillot à pois rouges' (the jersery of red peas!) in French. It is thought to originate from the packaging used on a chocolate product that sponsors, Poulain Chocolate, produced. Richard Virenque, one of the most popular riders, now retired, has won this jersey seven times! 

9 Taking part in the Tour De France burns serious calories: the average rider burns 127,491 calories over the course of the 21 day race. To compare: the average male burns about 2000 calories a day, that's just 42,000 over the same number of days.

10 The majority of cyclists who race are very slim, but there was one man called Magnus Backstedt who got the nickname "Big Maggy" as he weighed 94kg! He was the heaviest cyclist who ever competed. The lightest rider who took part in the Tour De France was Leonardo Piepoli. He weighed 57.kgs.

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