In a little over two months, the Tour de France will
set pedal off from the Western German town of Düsseldorf. For three weeks, cyclists from all over the world will compete for the coveted title of being crowned the winner of the Tour de France. In celebration of this, I thought I’d do a little post on the history of the Tour de France…
History of the Tour de France
The very first Tour de France was held just over a century ago, in 1903. The entire race began as a competition between two rival newspapers. At the turn of the twentieth Century, there were two main cycling newspapers in France. Both wanted to out print the other. Le Vélo and l’Auto were in strict competition, though Le Vélo was streaking ahead in terms of sales. As a result, the press team of l’Auto knew that they had to do something drastic. And fast. By this point, Le Vélo was selling tens of thousands of its papers on a daily basis.
Interesting races had long been a way to sell sporting papers, and in the cycling profession, it was no different. However, at this point in history, no grand scale bicycle race had ever taken place. In a state of desperation, and a last ditch attempt to sell newspapers, the Tour de France was conceived.
Despite few cyclists entering the initial race, and an even shorter cycling distance than was originally planned, the Tour de France turned out to be an overwhelming success in terms of magazine readership. However, cheating was rife and it was unsure whether the Tour would last more than a few years. Still, the paper continued to literally flew off the shelves and the race was turned into a yearly event. L’Auto overtook le Vélo as the leading sporting newspaper in France. To the extent where le Vélo was driven out of business.
Today, the most famous cycling race in the world covers a distance of over 2000 miles and is challenging, to say the least!
The first ever Tour de France 1903. To the right, winner Maurice Garin.
Le grand Depart
This year, ‘le grand depart‘ kicks off in the town of Düsseldorf, Germany. For just the fourth time since the start of the Tour de France, it will start in a German city. In celebration of the most important time in the race, there is a whole host of events on throughout the city. New cycle cafés have been opened and this friendly city has turned that much friendlier with the addition of even more bicycles on the streets.
Cycling in Duesseldorf
Of course, the Tour de France is not just about being crowned the ‘best cyclist’. In truth, it is so much more than that! The race is a celebration of cycling and the sports world in general. With the start of the Tour de France a mere couple of months away, whilst visiting the city a couple of weeks ago, I was given the chance to explore the city by bike and even meet (and shamelessly ask for a selfie with!) the director of the Tour de France.
A city Tour of Düsseldorf by Bike
Asides from exploring the city by foot, if you’re pressed for time then the best way to see Düsseldorf is by bicycle. Cycle along the Reine, or through the historic streets of the Alt Stadt, or even towards the newer parts of the city. It’s even possible to cycle from the Alt Stadt along the Rhine and all the way towards the oldest part of Düsseldorf, Kaiserswerth. Although I’m an incredibly bad cyclist (I probably fall off my bicycle at least every half hour on average), I found the cycle paths to be fairly wide and the roads smooth.
Café Velo & Café Schicke Mütze
Café Schicke Mütze was the first bicycle café to be opened in the city. Since 2009, it’s been serving fresh brews in its cycle themed space. It’s also a key meeting point for all cycling enthusiasts. Here you can pick up cycling memorabilia, as well as the latest copies of all major cycling magazines.
If you think it’s unusual that there’s one ‘cycling themed’ café in the city, then consider this: there are actually multiple cafés geared specifically towards bike enthusiasts! In honour of the Tour de France, the pop-up cycle Café Velo has opened up pretty close by to the Town Hall.
Here you can pop in for a quick espresso or stay for a longer bite to eat. Oh, and the cycling theme is taken seriously here, as well as a Tour de France one. With a French cuisine themed menu, and plenty of vintage biking inspired decor, you’re sure to get in the mood for the Tour de France- even if you’re not a cycling enthusiast…
I was invited to cycle around Düsseldorf with Düsseldorf Tourismus. However, all opinions are my own!