About the Tour de France
It lasts three weeks, attracts around 15 million spectators and is here once again.
The Tour de France is back for its 99th edition when the riders take part in the opening stage on Saturday, June 30 2012.
We take you through a quick run down of where it all began.
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
Back in 1903, the idea of the Tour was dreamt up by French sports newspaper L'Auto as a publicity stunt to help increase its circulation. It not only fulfilled its objective, but also managed to destroy the rival paper of the time and become one of the most attractive events for competitive cyclists overnight.
Only the gutsy and the tough of the professional cycling world entered the 2,428km, 19-day event and the first champion, Maurice Garin, managed to beat 59 other cyclists to take the title by a margin of two hours and 49 minutes.
The Tour very nearly didn't make it through to its second year with the amount of cheating involved. This was cheating of the non-chemical kind and involved riders catching trains, taking cars and dropping spikes to puncture opponent's tyres. Night stops, bike changes and technical help were against the rules of the Tour at this stage, so it's not surprising that the sleep-deprived competitors were tempted to jump on the train every now and then.
Rather than cancelling the Tour, the officials only added more rules and more mountains making the challenge almost impossible and earning the organisers the label of 'assassins.' Now the race is very different with trainers, doctors and experts offering technical advice to every rider, not to mention the huge amounts of money wrapped up in team sponsorship.
Today, the Tour involves more riders, more kilometres and more controversy with competitors demanding the unimaginable from their bodies in the bid to get their hands on that yellow leader's jersey.
Cycling Weekly's Tour de France section