Tour De France - Early Rules

Early Rules

Desgrange and his Tour invented bicycle stage racing. Desgrange experimented with judging by elapsed time and then from 1906 to 1912 by points for placings each day. He allowed riders to have personal pacers on the last stage in 1903 and on the first and last stages in 1905.

Desgrange stood against the use of multiple gears and for many years insisted riders use wooden rims, fearing the heat of braking while coming down mountains would melt the glue that held the tires on metal rims (they were finally allowed in 1937).

From 1936 there were as many as three stages in a single day.

His dream was a race of individuals. He invited teams but until 1925 forbade their members to pace each other. He then went the other way and from 1927 to 1929 ran the Tour as a giant team time-trial, with teams starting separately with members pacing each other. He demanded that riders mend their bicycles without help and that they use the same bicycle from start to end. Exchanging a damaged bicycle for another was allowed only in 1923.

In 1903, Desgrange allowed riders who dropped out one day to continue the next for daily prizes but not the overall prize. In 1928, he allowed teams who had lost members to replace them halfway through the race.

Above all, Desgrange conducted a campaign against the sponsors, bicycle factories, which he was sure were undermining the spirit of a Tour de France of individuals. In 1930 he insisted that competitors ride plain yellow bicycles that he would provide, without a maker's name.

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