July 19: The First Tour de France Ends

Tour1903Henri Desgrange had a problem. The French sports newspaper L’Auto was struggling, and as the paper’s editor he needed to find some way to get more people to read it. During a brainstorming session one evening, a reporter proposed an idea: What if the paper hosted a cycling race that would go all around the nation? And thus, the Tour de France was born.

The race was much different from the modern Tour. In the 2014 edition of the Tour, there are 21 race stages, averaging about 175 miles each and held over 23 days. In the original 1903 Tour, there were only six stages averaging 250 miles each and spread out over 18 days. The winner of the event was cyclist Maurice Garin (seen at left with his bike) who pedaled in to Paris on July 19, 1903.

Garin easily won the Tour, arriving in Paris three hours before any of his rivals. For his victory, Garin received a prize of 3,000 francs and the coveted first place green arm band (the infinitely more stylish Yellow Jersey was not introduced until after World War I). Although Garin had a magnificent victory, the Tour’s real winner was L’Auto whose average daily circulation increased from 25,000 to 65,000. The race would be run again every year except for from 1915-1918 (WWI) and 1940-1946 (WWII).

Amusingly, cheating to win the Tour de France is almost as old as the race itself, as Garin would be stripped of his 1904 Tour championship after it was found that he cheated during the race. Some reports went so far as to say he took a train in the middle of stages!

As modern Tour de France champions get to wear the famed Yellow Jersey, there is no more appropriate cocktail to honor the race than a Yellow Bicycle. This bubbly and herbal drink comes from a bar called Rye, located in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.

Yellow Bicycle

  • 1/2 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
  • 1/2 ounce Yellow Chartreuse
  • 4 ounces Prosecco

Stir the St. Germain and Yellow Chartreuse with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain in to a cocktail glass. Pour the Prosecco (although if you’re celebrating the Tour, you should probably use champagne) into the glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Tomorrow: This is how we walk on the moon.

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