The history of the Tour de France

Year 1920


  • As the world emerged from the aftermath of World War I, the 1920 Tour de France finally began to return to its old self. With 113 starters, the numbers were up, and the overall winner, Belgium's Philippe Thys, was a familiar pre-war face--he had won the race in 1912 and 1913. Even after the war-forced hiatus, Thys proved that he was still a powerful force on a bike. He won the second stage, and despite an early challenge by Frenchman Henri Pélissier, Thys led the Belgian-dominated race, winning four stages on the way to becoming the Tour’s first three-time winner.

  • Henri Pélissier was not only one of the greatest champions of his day, but he was also one of the most outspoken. In the Tour de France, his strong performances on the bike were often overshadowed by his emotional tirades. Take the 1920 Tour for example. After winning the third and fourth stages, Pélissier was penalized for illegally discarding a flat tire. Although the infraction was minor, Pélissier felt the penalty was unjust, and he immediately withdrew from the race. Race director Henri Desgrange criticized the French star, saying, “[Pélissier] will never win the Tour. He doesn't know how to suffer.” In 1923, however, Pélissier proved Desgrange wrong.

  • Winner of two consecutive stages, Brest and the Sables d'Olonne, Henri Pelissier withdraws after having been penalized for throwing a tyre. "He does not know how to suffer," wrote Henri Desgrange, denouncing his bad character. "He'll never win the Tour." Last rider: Raboisson (22nd) at 69 h 5 sec.

  • Philippe Thys completes the first-ever triple win.

  • Poland invades the Ukraine; 12 officers are killed in Dublin in what becomes known as “Bloody Sunday;” Knut Hamsun receives the Nobel Prize for literature.

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