Tour de France

Classical Academy | On This Day...

On 19 January 1903 came an important announcement: a cycling race across the French countryside - the Tour de France. L'Auto, a daily sports paper, had been suffering from falling sales figures and stiff competition from its rivals. At a crisis meeting various solutions were discussed. The final person to pipe up - the 26-year old chief cycling journalist - chimed in with a suggestion for a six day race of the sort popular on the track but across the country. This would sell more newspapers and nothing of the sort had been attempted before.


The paper's eager financial director jumped at the opportunity, handed the keys to the company safe to L'Auto's editor, and said "take what you need". To boost the number of entrants, the editor decided to offer 5 francs (a factory worker's salary) per day to the riders who were quick enough to earn it, while the winner was promised six times a factory worker's yearly salary.


Maurice Garin became the first champion, while the last rider to finish came in 64h 47m 22s behind him! A correspondent for L'Auto wrote "the men waved their hats, the ladies their umbrellas. One felt they would have liked to touch the steel muscles of the most courageous champions since antiquity".


Celebrate this glorious and challenging bike race with this album, Souvenir From Paris, with such French classics as C'est si bon and J'ai deux amours.


If you like French music, why not read more about Faure or Debussy with our feature articles in Classical Academy.