On the 1st July 1903 the first Tour de France cycling race took place over 19 days and six stages. Each stage was more than double the length of today’s equivalents, although the majority of the 2,428km course was flat. Whereas today’s competition involves a series of aggressive mountain climbs throughout the race the 1903 course featured a significant ascent in just one of the six stages, although there were a number of smaller climbs.
The first Tour de France was organised as a promotional tool to boost circulation of the French newspaper L’Auto. An initially disappointing number of entrants led to the race being delayed for a month from its original start date of 1st June, the entrance fee reduced, prize money increased, and the promise of a daily payment made to every rider who completed the six stages at an average speed of 20km/h or more.
60 competitors began the race at Montgeron, south of Paris, of whom 39 were private entrants. A further 24 cyclists joined individual stages of the race, although this meant that they were not eligible for the full prize money. When the race finished at the Paris Velodrome on the 19th July, 21 competitors had successfully completed every stage and their times were totaled to give an overall result, known as the general classification. The winner, with the fastest total time over all six stages, was Frenchman Maurice Garin who finished almost three hours ahead of his nearest rival. He won the title again in 1904, but was later disqualified for unspecified reasons.