The history of the Tour de France

Year 1904

THE STORY

  • Serious problems compromised the second Tour de France: angry fans blocked the race route on several occasions and countless reports of cheating surfaced long after the race was over. Although Maurice Garin technically won the race for the second year in a row, he, along with the rest of the top four, were disqualified for various infractions. As a result, little-known Henri Cornet, the fifth-place finisher, was declared the winner.

  • Of all the infractions that occurred during the 1904 race, the most memorable was committed by the fans of a little-known rider named Payan d'Alès, who was disqualified on the second stage. Outraged that d’Alès had been ousted from the race, his fans took their revenge when the Tour reached Alès' home in Nîmes. They littered the road with broken glass and nails, sabotaging the field.

  • Henri Cornet (20 years old), the youngest winner of the Tour rode 35 km with a flat tire during the last stage. His total time : 96 h 5' 55" 3/5 (Garin : 93 h 6' 24" 4/5). Oldest racer : Paret, of Saint-Etienne (50 years old). Last rider : Deflotrière (27th, then 23rd) at 101 h 36'. (1) Initial standings : 1 M. Garin, 2 Pothier, 3 C. Garin, 4 Aucouturier, 5 Cornet, 6 Dortignacq, 7 Jousselin, 8 Catteau, 9 Fily, 10 Dargassies.

  • There were protest marches and barricades along the route: There were also attacks against racers and the security personnel at the col de la Republique and in Nimes. These many irregularities caused Henri Desgranges to debate whether or not he should stop organizing the race. Maurice Garin had a short lived victory when, on November 30, the Technical Commitee of the French cycling union" l'Union Vélocipédique de France (UVF) " decided to disqualify several of the racers; Maurice Garin, Pothier, Cesar Garin and Aucouturier, the first four in the standings. This meant victory for Henri Cornet, who was initially in fifth place.(cycling historian Jacques Seray dedicated a book to this episode entitled "1904. The Tour de France that was Almost the Last.").

  • Puccini composes “Madame Butterfly;” St. Louis hosts the World's Fair; construction of the Panama Canal begins.

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