Before July, 1903, nothing like the Tour de France had ever been attempted. 60 men, mostly French, mounted their bicycles outside a café in Paris. The challenge of embarking on an unprecedented endurance without knowing the prize money of 20,000 francs brought all of these cyclists together. Henri Desgrange, a French cyclist and journalist, organised this endurance race, which was sponsored for advertising purposes by the newspaper L'Auto (now L'Equipe). Thus, the legendary Tour de France has begun. However, the Tour de France, like everything else in the world, has undergone many changes over time.
While the route changes each year, the race format remains consistent, including the inclusion of time trials, the passage through the mountain chains of the Pyrenees and Alps, and the finish on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The Champs-Elysees is still the last stage of the Tour, but much has changed since the initial Tour in 1903. The Tour de France's six enormous stages covered a total of 2,428 kilometres in 1903, which meant that several races were held at night on rough roads and the cyclists rode alone, without the assistance of a team. However, the 2022 Tour will now cover 3,328 kilometres and 21 stages.
22 professional teams are expected this year, with eight cyclists each, no more single riders. In 1903, mostly French riders competed, with only a single German, Belgian, Italian, and Swiss rider. However in 2022, there are 218 riders from 27 different countries, 32 from France, and the rest from mostly European countries.
First route of the Tour de France, 1903
Prize money has always been given out. From 20,000 francs the first year, prize money has increased each year, though the first prize was an apartment offered by a race sponsor from 1976 to 1987. In 1988, the first prize was a car, a studio apartment, a piece of art, and 500,000 francs in cash. In 1990, only cash prizes were awarded.
However, the winner of the general classification in 2022 will receive 500,000 euros. The money earned by each team is divided among the riders and the staff. Among other changes over time, those who finish second or third in the Tour receive €200.000 and €100.000, respectively. Furthermore, each Tour de France finisher gets at least €1000, with the top 19 riders receiving more.
Changes to the cherished yellow jersey
In 1919 the French rider Eugene Christophe received the first yellow jersey. This yellow sweater remained unchanged until the death of Henri Desgrange in 1940, when it was decided that his initials, HD, would appear on the sweater. After this there were some new jerseys next to the yellow jerseys:
The Green Jersey - The leader of the points classification, which you get when winning intermediate sprints en route and at the finish
The Polka Dot jersey - In the mountain stages you can earn points for the mountain classification, the leader receives this striking shirt with red dots
The White jersey - riders who are 25 years or younger during the round are participating in the youth classification and get a white sweater on their shoulders
The (disappeared) Combined Classification jersey - the combination classification no longer exists since 1990, but this jersey that combines all the Tour de France jerseys in one is still for sale in our shop
The yellow jersey has come a long way from resembling a canary to being the most sought-after cycling jersey. More than 2000 yellow jerseys had been officially awarded up till today. Eddy Merckx, a Belgian former professional road and track cyclist, won the most yellow jerseys in his career, with 96. Henri Cornet is the youngest Tour de France winner, having won in 1904, just ahead of his 20th birthday, and Firmin Lambot is the oldest victor, having won in 1922 at the age of 36 years.
Nowadays, the yellow jersey is the most easily recognized jersey in professional cycling, not just in Paris or on the Tour de France, but anywhere. Of course, we have a wonderful collection of yellow jerseys in our shop! So, pick one of these fantastic jerseys and cycle in the cycling clothes of historic Tour de France heroes.
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