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GALLERY: The Racing Roots of the Old Tour de France

By Monica Buck

Back in the day, before it was overshadowed by the shameful doping scandal, the Grand Boucle used to be one of the most glorious sporting events in the world. Now, after the big clean-up, the glamour is starting to slowly come back. However, some fans can’t help but reminisce about the golden days when the racing was pure and the heroes undoubted. Let’s have a look at a series of photographs that bring back those memories.


Octave Lapize pushing his bike up the Tourmalet in 1910. It was the first time the peloton went over the iconic pass. Lapize managed to win the Tour that year.
The Tour ran along the borders of France in its first decades. In 1951, the organizers made a change to include Puy de Dôme and Mount Ventoux. You can see the riders’ first trip up the “Giant of Provence” in this photo. Starring Hugo Koblet, Gino Bartali, Lucien Lazaridès, and Raphael Géminiani.
Jacques Anquetil’s strength laid in the mountains. That helped him dominate the Tour and win it five times in total. (1963)
Hippolyte Aucouturier won the second Tour de France in 1904 but was disqualified later because he had made deals with most of the 87 riders who participated in the race. Henri Desgrange, founder of the Tour, was worried back then that the controversy might ruin the race for good.
Raymond Poulidor was one hell of a tough guy. In 1968, everything in the race seemed to be going in the right direction for him until he crashed into a press motorcycle. Despite his injuries, he got back in the saddle and finished the stage. Later it was found out that his injuries were really serious, and Poulidor had to withdraw the next day.
Eddy Merckx pictured in 1969 winning the first of his five consecutive Tour titles.
French farmers took advantage of the race’s popularity in 1974 to let the world know about their strike.
Philippe Thys (on the right) set a new record with three victories back in the 1920s. Desgrange said later that if the war hadn’t robbed Thys of his best years, he would surely have won more than just three Tours.
Gino Bartali on the summit of Col du Tourmalet. World War II robbed Gino “the Pious” of his best years but he became one of the most esteemed cycling heroes nonetheless. He helped save the lives of as many as 800 Jews.