The history of the Tour de France

Year 1912

THE STORY

  • Fresh off of four stage wins at the Tour of Belgium, Odile Defraye was hired by the Alcyon team to help Gustave Garrigou defend his Tour de France title. But it was the Belgium newcomer who appeared the stronger. Defraye led the field over the Ballon d'Alsace climb en route to a win in the race’s second stage. Defraye was suddenly a top contender, and his teammates switched allegiance, recognizing him as their leader. Not only did Defraye have his teammates support, but he had the support of virtually every Belgian rider in the race--regardless of their team. The Tour’s Belgian contingent united to ride for the chances of their countryman, the first to have a real chance of winning the Tour de France. After winning the first stage in the Pyrénées, Defraye rode unchallenged to the overall victory.

  • Three consecutive stage victories by Christophe, who dominates in the Alps. He's the first at the top of the Galibier and wins in Grenoble after a 315-km breakaway. Octave Lapize was one of the only real threats to the dominance of Defraye. In the Pyrénées, however, the volatile Frenchman made a U-turn and started riding in the opposite direction. “How can you expect me to challenge in such conditions?” he said as he quit the race. “All the Belgians are riding for Defraye.” That evening Lapize's entire team dropped out in protest.

  • To protest against the Belgian riders' scheming, Lapize and his team withdraw. Italy's Pratesi loses fifth place in the individuals category on the last day due to mechanical difficulties. "I'm truly distressed by everything I have seen today," writes Henri Desgrange the night the grand Pyrenean stage was fought out under torrential rain. Last rider: Lartigue (41th) 612 pts (Defraye: 49 pts).

  • First Belgian victory.

  • Woodrow Wilson is elected President of the United States; the luxury liner Titanic sinks; China proclaims itself a republic; Salon d'Automne displays a groundbreaking exhibit of cubist paintings.

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