Who won the first Tour de France? The inaugural Tour took place in 1903, marking the beginning of what would become what is considered the most prestigious and challenging event in the world of professional cycling. The first winner of the Tour de France was Maurice Garin, a French cyclist who would etch his name into cycling history with his win.
Summary of Garin’s Life and Career
Born in 1871, in Arvier, Italy, Garin began his cycling career as a teenager, working as a chimney sweep to support his passion for the sport. His dedication and talent quickly propelled him into the competitive cycling scene, and by the time the Tour de France was announced, Garin was already a seasoned rider.
The 1903 Tour de France covered a grueling 2,428 kilometers (1,509 miles) over six stages, with riders facing challenging terrains and unpredictable weather conditions. The race commenced on July 1, attracting a field of 60 riders, at that time a mix of amateurs and professionals. Garin, riding for the team La Française, quickly established himself as a formidable foe.
Garin’s strategic approach and consistent performance throughout the race earned him the coveted yellow jersey, which was introduced to signify the race leader. He won three of the six stages and completed the whole race in about 94.5 hours. Garin’s win in the first Tour de France not only secured his place in cycling history but also established the race as a premier event in the cycling calendar.
Despite the glory of his victory, Garin’s cycling career would later be marred by controversy. In the 1904 Tour de France, he again emerged as the winner, but allegations of cheating and foul play clouded his triumph (eh hem, we’ll talk more about this legacy of the tour later). Accusations of train travel and sabotage led to disqualifications, tarnishing the reputation of Garin and others. Consequently, his 1904 title was stripped, and he faced a suspension from competitive cycling.
Despite the controversy, Maurice Garin’s impact on the early years of the Tour de France remains important. His victories and subsequent setbacks played a pivotal role in shaping the legacy and evolution of the iconic race. Garin’s story reflects the challenges and intrigue that have characterized the Tour de France throughout its storied history, making him an enduring figure cycling.