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The First Tour de France (1903)

- July 18, 2013 in 1903, collections, cycling, Digital Copy: PD Wikimedia, dreyfuss affair, first tour de france, France, Images, Images-20th, Images-People, Images-Photography, maurice garin, sport, tour de france, Underlying Work: No Known Copyright Restrictions, Wikimedia Commons

The 2013 Tour de France marks the 100th of the event’s history, which began in 1903 (the competition was put on hold during the two world wars). Strangely, this inaugural event of 1903 had it’s origins in one of France’s greatest political scandals – the Dreyfuss Affair. In 1894 a young French artillery officer of Jewish descent, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, was convicted of high treason but then, years later, was proven to be innocent in the light of new evidence, evidence which the military attempted to suppress. The ensuing debate over Dreyfuss’ innocence, and the wider issues of anti-semitism in which it was embedded, divided the nation. One such division occurred within France’s most popular cycling magazine L’Velo, causing it to split into two when an anti-Dreyfuss contingent broke away to form L’Auto-Velo. L’Velo‘s owner won a court case forcing L’Auto-Velo to change their name, which they did, to L’Auto, a move which saw their sales subsequently plummet. In an effort to boost their waning popularity, and win back their cycling fans, L’Auto set up the Tour de France in 1903. It was a hugely successful campaign which caused their sales to increase 6-fold during and after the race and, […]