The Downside of Tour de France

The Tour de France is a gigantic advertising machine. It offers companies and drivers alike a platform to put themselves in the limelight. Legal means are not always used to ensure one’s own success. The second edition of the Tour de France in 1904 already had its scandal when some riders had gained unauthorized advantages and were then disqualified.

The subject of doping, i.e. the unauthorized use of performance-enhancing agents, first came to the fore in 1955 when a French driver collapsed on the climb to Mont Ventoux. The collapse was probably due to the ingestion of amphetamines, which his supervisor is said to have slipped him. This was then excluded from the race. 12 years later the British driver Tom Simpson (* 1937, † 1967) breaksalso met at Mont Ventoux and died shortly afterwards of a high dose of amphetamines in his body. There were no targeted doping controls at that time. The first anti-doping law in cycling was passed in 1965. The first unannounced doping test at the Tour de France was carried out a year later, but with great protest from the drivers. The five-time Tour de France winner Jaques Anquetil resisted the doping guidelines and insisted on the right to use performance-enhancing agents throughout his career.

The Tour de France reached its negative climax in terms of doping in 1998 with the so-called “Festina Affair”. A large number of performance-enhancing substances were confiscated from the Festina team and, as a result of the investigation, several drivers and attendants were taken into police custody. Parts of the field of drivers went on strike again, teams withdrew from the race in protest and the Tour de France was about to be canceled. The affair showed that doping practice was firmly established in the field of drivers and that there was no awareness of clean cycling. This did not change in the following years either. Further doping affairs shook cycling and led, among other things, to the subsequent cancellation of the Tour de France victories of the American Lance Armstrong (1999-2005) as well as the victories of the American Floyd Landis (* 1975) in 2006 and the Spaniard Alberto Contador (* 1982) in 2008.

In addition to the doping problem, safety also plays a major role in the Tour de France. Despite many measures on the part of the organizer to ensure that everything runs safely and smoothly, tragic racing accidents cannot be prevented. The Spaniard Francisco Cepeda (* 1906, † 1935) fell fatally in 1935 on a descent from the Col du Galibier. In 1995 the tragic death of Italian Fabio Casartelli (* 1970, † 1995) shocked the field of drivers and spectators when he fell fatally on a descent in the Pyrenees. In the history of the Tour de France, spectators were also killed in accidents with accompanying vehicles and cars from the advertising caravan.

The German-speaking countries and the Tour de France

When it was first held in 1903, riders from Germany and Switzerland took part in the Tour de France. Joseph Fischer (* 1865, † 1953) from Germany finished the tour in 15th place and the Swiss Charles Laeser (* 1879, † 1959) won the fourth section to Bordeaux and was the first foreigner to win a stage of the Tour de France could. In 1909, Francois Faber (* 1887, † 1915) from Luxembourg became the first non-French to win the Tour de France. The Swiss Hugo Kublet (* 1925, † 1964) and Ferdinand Kübler (* 1919, † 2016) enthused the fans at home in 1950 and 1951, when they were able to successfully defend the yellow jersey as far as Paris. In Germany you had to wait until 1997 until Jan Ullrich was the first and so far only time a driver from your own country was able to win the tour.

In addition to the numerous successes of drivers from German-speaking countries, the detours of the field of drivers to Luxembourg, Germany or Switzerland also make up a large part of the history of the Tour de France. Among other things, the “Grand Départ” has taken place four times in Germany: first in 1965 in Cologne, 1980 in Frankfurt am Main, 1987 in the western part of Berlin, which was still divided at the time, and for the last time in 2017 in Düsseldorf.

The Tour de France has already started in Basel, Switzerland (1982) and Luxembourg (1989, 2002).

The Downside of Tour de France