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The second Tour and how it was almost the last.

The Tour De France is the most renowned and well-known cycle race in the world and has some of the best Event Medical Cover that there is. Organisers use companies such as to make sure that all the spectators and competitors are safe during the event. It regularly features in the sports pages for its July duration and captures the attention of the world even for people who wouldn’t identify themselves as completely cycling fans. The event has seen its fair share of controversy, the US Postal Service team and the cheating of its lead rider Lance Armstrong being a good example but you only have to look back to the second tour of 1904 to see that with this event dodgy dealings and controversy walk, or in this case ride, hand in hand.

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The origins of the Tour are themselves a bit suspect. There were two rival magazines vying for supremacy. One was the established Le Velo and the other was the new L’Auto. The owners of L’Auto where journalists and forward thinking business men with money behind them and to improve circulation they created the Le Grand Tour to publicise the magazine and show they’re more honourable intentions. This worked beyond their wildest dreams and the public flocked to the new magazine in droves deserting the Le Velo as the paper of the establishment so much so that it folded. France at the time was rocked by a very public scandal (known as the Dreyfus Affair) of a false imprisonment of Solider that had exposed the hypocrisy and downright lies of the upper classes and Military command and L’Auto was a part of the resistance to it.

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The 1904 Tour was deemed to be the last by the organiser Henri Desgrange. The fans had been much greater in numbers and the enthusiasm and passion had spilled over to the roadside where some of the competitors and been attacked and waylaid. Others were given food and drinks, back then not allowed. There was a suggestion that this was to sabotage bets that had been made on the winning riders. Worse was to come. It came to pass that the top four finishers had not actually completed the whole Tour on a bike. Maybe they’d misunderstood some of the rules but one thing it is pretty clear on is that the use of Trains and Cars to take shortcuts is strictly prohibited. From personal testimony of spectators and other riders some competitors would begin the stage then disappear at some point only to re-join at the end speeding across the line fresh as a daisy.

The disqualified riders included the first tour winner Maurice Garin and his brother Cesar. The winner was Henri Cornet who remains the youngest ever at nineteen years old; even he was warned after getting a lift in a car at one point! Clear rules were introduced and the organisers relented. The 1905 Tour would go ahead as planned.

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