From the winner of the Telegraph Sports Book Awards Cycling Book of the Year 2018
The first Tour de France in 1903 was a colourful affair full of adventure, mishaps and audacious attempts at cheating. Its riders included characters like Maurice Garin, an Italian-born Frenchman, said to have been swapped for a round of cheese by his parents in order to smuggle him into France to clean chimneys as a teenager, Hippolyte Aucouturier with his trademark handlebar moustache, and amateurs like Jean Dargassies, a blacksmith who had never raced before.
Would this ramshackle pack of cyclists draw crowds to throng France’s rutted roads and cheer the first Tour heroes? Surprisingly it did, and, all thanks to a marketing ruse dreamed up to revive struggling newspaper L’Auto, cycling would never be the same again. Peter Cossins takes us through the inaugural Tour de France, painting a nuanced portrait of France in the early 1900s, to see where the greatest sporting event of all began.