The history of the Tour de France

Year 1919

THE STORY

  • The 1919 Tour lived in the shock waves of World War I. The decimation of Europe’s population resulted in a race with half the participants of an average pre-war Tour, and bombed-out roads created abominable riding conditions, resulting in the slowest race since 1906. With many of the great pre-war riders no longer present, unheralded Belgian Firmin Lambot became the first real contender of the new generation. And after winning the penultimate stage, he captured the overall title.

  • France's Eugene Christophe lacked luck. In 1912 he had seen his chances dashed in the Pyrénées when his fork broke in the middle of a mountain stage. In 1919, however, victory appeared to be his. As the race’s leader, Christophe was awarded the Tour's first yellow jersey, when organizers decided mid-way through the race that it would help them pick out the leader in the midst of the pack. On the penultimate stage, Christophe raced towards Paris with a half-hour lead. His fork again cracked in half. This time it took him little more than an hour to fix it--nearly three hours better than his previous repair job--but the race had once again slipped through his fingers.

  • Henri Pelissier wins at Cherbourg. Francis Pelissier, who missed the start in Paris, wins the morning after in Brest. The two brothers abandon the following day at the Sables d'Olonne, impulsively, declaring: "Everyone is against us." Last rider: Nempon (10th) at 21 h 24 min. 12 sec.

  • Christophe's persistent bad luck. He finishes last of the last stage after a series of punctures .He is considered the Tour's moral winner and is welcomed as a hero. The yellow jersey of the Tour’s overall leader is introduced.

  • The Treaty of Versailles is signed, officially ending WWI; painter Auguste Renoir dies; Prohibition begins in the United States; the Bauhaus school of architecture is created.

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