The inaugural cycling race was organized and sponsored by the newspaper L'Auto, the forerunner of today's daily, L'Équipe, in 1903. Maurice Garin won the race, which took place from July 1 to 19 over a distance of 2,428 kilometers (1,509 miles).
The event was created to increase L'Auto's circulation as it began to decline due to competition with the long-running Le Vélo. The race was originally slated to begin in June, but it was postponed one month and the prize money was increased due to a low number of applicants. while it had fewer stages than modern Grand Tours, each one was far longer than those raced today. The first stage road race was the Tour de France in 1903, and while it had fewer stages than modern Grand Tours, each one was far longer than those raced today. Although competing in all six stages was required to qualify for the general classification, riders were not required to do so.
Maurice Garin, the pre-race favorite, won the opening stage and maintained his lead throughout the race. He also won the final two stages, putting him nearly three hours ahead of the next racer. The event was deemed successful enough to be rerun in 1904, by which time Le Vélo had been put out of business because the circulation of L'Auto surged more than sixfold during and after the race.
Due to this event, L'Auto's circulation surged dramatically; following the race, a special edition of 130,000 copies was printed, and normal circulation increased from 25,000 to 65,000 copies. The Tour de France was rescheduled for 1904 as a result of the huge success. The cyclists had also earned the status of national heroes. Maurice Garin returned for the 1904 Tour de France but was disqualified from defending his championship. Garin later acquired a gas station with the prize money he received in 1903, which totaled 6,075 francs (about US$40,000 and GBP£23,000 in 2006 values) and worked there for the rest of his life.
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