The first winner in the Tour de France took almost 18 hours

Maurice Garin took victory in Lyon on the opening stage of the French event after all night in the race and would end up taking the overall.


Maurice Garin achieved the first victory in the history of the Tour de France in Lyon. At one minute past nine in the morning of July 2, 1903, Garin crossed the finish line alone on the pavement of avenue de Vaise, number 33, where a hundred fans were waiting. The French pioneer took 17 hours, 45 minutes and 44 seconds to cover the 467 kilometers of that first stage from Paris, at an average of 27,280 km / h. 55 seconds behind the winner, Émile Pagie entered, with traces of having suffered a fall. Both rode together all night from the Nevers control, where they passed at 22:56. "If all goes well, we're in Lyon at eight," Garin told Pagie. He fell short on the calculation. Third place was Léon Georget, 35 minutes away, who fell off the hook before that point due to a breakdown.

Garin pocketed 1,500 francs (230 euros) for that first of three victories in the race. At the end of the Tour, of which he became its first champion, he collected a total of 6,500 francs in prizes (about 990 euros). Garin wore number 1, because he had been the first to register. His attire, with a white jacket and black pants, and his mustache made him easily recognizable to the public.

That first stage was completed by 37 of the 60 cyclists who had started from Le Réveil Matin café, in Villeneuve Saint Georges, on the outskirts of Paris, at 3:16 p.m. the day before. The last to reach the finish line was Eugène Brange, at 20:55. The regulations of that time allowed that cyclists who did not finish the stage could leave the next day, but without options to compete for the general. One of those who did not cross the arrival that date was the other great favorite, Hippolyte Aucouturier, who suffered terrible stomach pains. He later suspected that he had been poisoned at a food station. El Terrible, as they knew him that way, managed to win two stages of that edition despite this.

Maurice Garin was born in Italy (Arvier, 3-23-1871), but had French nationality. They called him Petit Ramoneur, Little Chimney Sweep, because he was 1.63 meters tall and weighed 61 kilos, and he had carried out that profession. He had an enormous capacity for suffering and recovery. The chronicles of the time highlighted his ability to cover “more than a hundred kilometers without eating anything”, as Henri Desgrange, the founder of the Tour, wrote. His toughness earned him another nickname: Iron Ass. With the benefits of his victory he set up a gas station in Lens and later a bicycle brand. Two businesses with which he was able to live until his death (19-2-1957) in that locality.

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