The Origin Of The Tour de France

By | December 7, 2019

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Tour de France 2016. Source: (Photo by Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

While there are many bicycle races in the world, none have the prestige or publicity of the Tour de France. The 21-day long, 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) race is one of the most grueling contests of sports competition in the world. In its origins, it was a different race than the one we know today.

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The cashiering of Alfred Dreyfus. Source: (Wikipedia)

The 1890s ushered in a bicycling craze in France. With a boom in the cycling industry, racing tracks, called velodromes, were developed as well as numerous long-distance road races. As it turns out the race that would become the Tour de France originated from a magazine dispute over the Dreyfus Affair.

The Dreyfus Affair was a scandal in which Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish captain in the French army, was falsely accused and convicted in 1895 of giving military secrets to the Germans. The entire scandal reeked of antisemitism and even when evidence was discovered of Dreyfus’s innocence, he was not exonerated until 1906. It divided the country.