1905 – The First Climb
Although the inaugural Tour took place in 1903, the first two editions of the race were primarily flat affairs. In an attempt to liven the race up and make it more exciting for spectators, tour organisers introduced the first major climb of the tour, the Ballon d’Alsace. In order to ensure the riders were appropriately prepared for the climb and descent, competitors were allowed to swap their fixed gear bikes at the base and summit of the mountain.
Whilst advancements in technology have meant that this is no longer required, it is a reminder of just how far both the Tour and cycling, in general, has come in a little over a century. France’s René Pottier reached the top of the mountain first back in 1905, making him the very first King of the Mountain in Tour history (although in an unofficial capacity).
1919 – The First Yellow Jersey
There are four jerseys awarded during the Tour de France each year, but the yellow jersey is by far the most recognisable and significant. The yellow jersey or maillot jaune designates the competitor who leads the general classification and has become the centrepiece for some of the most iconic cycling images in the history of the sport.
Midway through the 1919 event, race organisers were under pressure from members of the press to make the leader of the race more visible. The colour yellow was chosen as a nod to French Newspaper L’Auto, who also owned the tour at the time. The first jersey went to Parisian Eugene Christophe, who was considered to be one of the best riders of his generation. After winning in spectacular style last year, Geraint Thomas is the favourite to retain his Tour de France crown at 8/11 with Betway Sports, as of 15th July, and one suspects that yellow may once again be the Welshman’s colour when the dust settles.
2011 – Cadel Evans
It’s fair to say that when Cadel Evans finally landed the top prize back in 2011, he became one of the most popular winners in the history of the competition. A model of consistency and tenacity for a number of years, Evans finished in the top 10 of eleven Grand Tours.
As the first Australian (and second-ever non-European behind Greg LeMond) to win the title, Evans received a personal call from then Australian PM Julia Gillard, a parade and a state reception which was attended by thousands of Australians. Evans had a race named in his honour back in 2015, which attracted numerous sponsors including Subaru, Momentum Energy and Oakley. Evans participated in the inaugural Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and finished fifth before retiring from competitive cycling.
The Breakthrough of the Tour Into The Mainstream
It’s fair to say that this list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to significant Tour de France milestones. The fact that the history of the tour is littered with so memorable moments is an indicator as to why the competition continues to attract significant interest from all over the world.
In recent years, the Tour has attracted a fair amount of interest in the media. With Sir Chris Hoy and Sir Bradley Wiggins breaking through into mainstream pop culture via brand endorsements such as PureGym and Fred Perry, respectively, the tour and the sport of cycling, in general, has benefited hugely from the exposure. Whatever happens in the next couple of weeks, the Tour looks set to continue to grow in stature for the foreseeable future, and we couldn’t be happier.