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The violent, crazy origin story of the Tour de France

The Tour de France began as a public relations exercise by Comte Jules-Albert de Dion shortly after he was arrested for assaulting the French president during a racially motivated brawl on a local circuit. This is a pretty insane origin story for any sporting event, but it only got more ridiculous from then on. Seriously, you probably don’t care that much about the Tour de France, but just trust us – this is not an article about cycling. (It’s an article on madness.)

In its second year of existence, the tour had degenerated into an unrestricted scam contest that included itch powder, poison, broken glass, angry mob attacks, a vicious chimney sweep, and a surprising amount of stewardship shooting. Let’s start with the battle with the jewel sticks and work on the man with the biggest mustache in history, who fights his way through an entire city with his bike as a protective shield.

Comte de Dion was an extremely wealthy aristocrat who ran France̵

7;s largest car company, which at the time basically meant screwing wagon wheels onto you actual steam engine and in the hope that the buyer saw it before it exploded. He was also a militant conservative. With racist elements in the French army framed a Jewish captain for treason and sent him to a nightmarish South American prison island, de Dion took the position that this was actually perfectly fine. However, in 1899 a new president was elected who felt the case should be reopened. Monocles popped up across France as the country’s stickiest old coots dropped their morning cognacs together and swore vengeance.

The violent, crazy genesis of the Tour de France - an early automobile as sold by Comte de Dion

Via Wikimedia Commons
This is less of a car than an off-road train.

Shortly after the election, President Loubet made the mistake of showing up at the Auteuil circuit in Paris. He was immediately accused by a crowd of fancy boys in top hats who waved their fancy sticks and whimpered in anger when elegant ladies passed out in horror. A mad baron pounced on the president and “raised his stick to strike … the stick that descended on M. Loubet’s hat crushed him and forced it over his face like a candle extinguisher.” Meanwhile, de Dion battled the President’s bodyguards and eventually broke his jewel-encrusted stick in half over the head of a police officer. This outrageous attack earned him 15 days in prison, the harshest sentence ever placed on a wealthy person in history.

De Dion’s behavior has been widely condemned in French newspapers, but he probably hasn’t read them anyway. However, he was shocked and outraged to learn that the editor of the country’s largest sports newspaper, Le Velo, had called him an idiot. De Dion was so furious that he withdrew all of his advertising and then started a rival sports newspaper out of spite, like an evil Larry David.

Since The veil promoted himself through Sponsorship of popular cycling racesde Dion announced that he would use his enormous wealth to sponsor the greatest cycling race of all, with a huge cash prize for the winner. And so the Tour de France was born as the defiant middle finger of a non-racist sports writer.

The violent, insane Tour de France origin story - Comte de Dion, who sponsored the earliest Tour de France races, sits on a bike

Vanity Fair
The veil soon went under while the newspaper and the race of this motorbike are still huge. Really great world that we have here.

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