The Biggest Cycling Races In History

By Mark Dziuban

 

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.

The best books on cycling

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There are a variety of great texts on cycling, including those focused on cycling history, professional competition, and philosophies on training. Here are a few of my favorite titles.

“How Cycling can Save the World” by Peter Walker

Guardian reporter and longtime cycling columnist Peter Walker delves into the place of cycling in a car-dominated society. Walker essentially argues that “the future of humanity depends on the bicycle,” discussing cycling’s impact on environmental sustainability and transportation safety.

“It’s All About the Bike” by Robert Penn

“It’s All About the Bike” is the true account of author Robert Penn’s journey to build the ideal bike. A seasoned cyclist with over 25,000 miles to his name, Penn explores various historic and cultural details surrounding the bicycle as he takes readers on his hunt for “two-wheel perfection,” exploring the reasons that avid cyclists continue to saddle up to this day.

“The Cycling Anthology” by Ellis Bacon and Lionel Birnie

If you are looking for a compilation of great writings on cycling, look no further than “The Cycling Anthology.” The collection brings together original and exclusive pieces written by leading cyclists and cyclist commentators. Covered topics include professional career development, the impact of statistics, and the legacy of Lance Armstrong.

 

“Shut Up, Legs!” by Jens Voigt

In “Shut Up, Legs,” beloved German cyclist Jens Voigt gives readers a closer look inside his cycling career, covering his victories in three stages of the Tour De France. Though Voigt never claimed an overall victory, he handled himself with grace and exhibited an aggressive, dedicated riding demeanor. The book “offers a rare glimpse inside Voigt’s heart and mind.”

 

“The Story of the Tour De France: Volume 1 – 1903-1964” by Bill McGann

The Tour De France is, unequivocally, the biggest spectacle in the cycling world — not to mention the sports world at large. This text dives into the historic event’s past and present, exploring its rise in size and success over the years. Readers are able to trace each chapter of what has become one of the greatest and most esteemed events in sports history.

Exploring common cycling ailments (Pt. 2)

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Like any endurance sport, cycling can come with its fair share of overuse injuries. There are a variety of pesky ailments that commonly plague dedicated cyclists, which can quickly interrupt — or end — an otherwise fruitful training cycle.

I previously explained how to approach and manage five common cycling ailments. Here now are answers to a few more frequent injuries.

 

Broken clavicle

Crashes and impact injuries are an unfortunate, but frequent part of competitive cycling — a group of fast-traveling athletes in close proximity to one another is sure to spell disaster now and then. There are obviously numerous ways these scenarios can lead to significant injury, but a common injury area is the clavicle, or the collarbone; this is not surprising, given this bone’s vulnerable exposure and front-facing position (any head-over-handlebars situation puts it at immediate risk of taking the brunt of the fall). This particular injury requires quick medical attention, so exercise common sense in any situation where you think you may have suffered a break or fracture.

 

Back pain

Given the fact that cycling usually entails a slightly bent-forward posture, it is no surprise that many cyclists mistakenly slouch during long rides, leading to pain in several critical areas — among them, the back. Additionally, many of us also hold jobs that find us sitting and bending over for long periods of time, causing an adverse shift in our biomechanics. Chronic back pain can quickly shut down a cycling season, so make sure to correct your posture problems and engage in proper stretching and strengthening exercises while you still can.

 

Arm pain

It is also not surprising that many cyclists occasionally grapple with arm pain — after all, a cyclist’s arms are responsible for the overall steering of the bike. The easiest way to correct this ailment is to check the reach on your bike; it may be too long and therefore responsible for unnecessary pressure and straining. Furthermore, check to make sure your handlebars are not set too low. These tips can also help to correct pain associated with the neck and upper back.