The first Tour de France began on July 1, 1903 as a publicity stunt for a failing sports magazine, L’Auto. The first race was 19 days long and in its original format was not very attractive to cyclists, garnering only 15 entrants.
The editor changed the format and offered a daily allowance to those who averaged at least 20 km/hour, equal to what a factory worker would earn in one day. He also cut the entry fee from 20 francs to 10 francs and set the first prize at 12,000 francs and each day’s winner at 3,000 francs. That attracted 60-80 entrants, which included not just professional cyclists, but the adventurous, amateurs, and the unemployed.
The modern race times each cyclist and that average is compounded with their previous stage times. The rider with the lowest aggregate time is the leader and gets to wear the coveted yellow jersey.
Today the overall winner of the Tour de France wins €500,000 plus an extra €500 for every day he “wears the yellow.” Each day’s winner receives €300 and there are prizes for stage placings, team placings, Overall Best Climber, Overall Best Young Rider (under 26), Most Combative and the Best Team. Each rider who completes the tour receives €400.
The 2018 Tour de France begins July 7 and will conclude July 29 in Paris. This is the official website. It is the 105th Tour d’France (the race was cancelled during WWI & II) and will have 176 participants in 22 teams. Women are currently not allowed to participate in the Tour de France.
This is the 2018 schedule.