In 1817, Baron von Drais invented the first version of what is now called bicycles. After 50 years and various design changes, the recognition of the freedom and fun that bicycles brought to the people led to the first mass-production of bicycles in 1868. On May 31st of that same year, cycling as a sport officially began.
The race was a 1,312 yard (or 1,200 meters) race near Paris. Within a year, the first city-to-city race was held between Paris and Rouen. In the U.S., the first recorded race was held in Boston on May 24, 1878. By the 1890’s, a new form of racing began to thrive: the six-day race. This non-stop competition includes 142 hours of round-the-clock racing performed by one to two-man teams. While cycling became common in continental Europe, England’s deteriorated road conditions hindered the popularity of the sport.
Throughout the following 200 years, many races and racers came and went leaving unbelievable stories and records to intrigue all for years to come. Here are just a few of the many unforgettable moments in cycling history.
In 1903, the Tour de France was inaugurated as an outsized and extravagant race. The 21-day-long race quickly became one of the most popular and prestigious cycling races in the world. This multi-stage race has been held over 100 times with route distances ranging from 2,000-2,200 miles. To this day, there have only been four cyclists to win the race five times altogether.
Founded in 1909, the Giro d’Italy, or La Corsa Rosa, is also a 21 day, 2,000+ mile long race. This race holds the title for most engaged fans, as the weather-related obstacles, such as freezing rain or snow, seems to present no problem for the tour enthusiasts.
Dating back to the 1930s, the Tour de Suisse is the most famous bicycle race in Switzerland. First won by Austrian cyclist Max Bulla, this race is known as the place to prove yourself before moving on to the Tour de France. There has been only one cyclist, Pasquale Fornara, who has managed to win the race four times.
Established in 1947, the Criterium du Dauphine incorporates eight individual stages over the course of eight days. Benefiting from its location and place on the calendar, race organizers often feature a mountain stage with a route that is nearly identical to what the Tour de France will trace one month later.
While racers and races continue to evolve, the stories, moments, and successes of those dedicated to the ultimate physical challenges will remain cherished and revered.