Tour de France 1914 – 1919
23 July 2017

Today marks the end of the 2017 #TourdeFrance.

Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-996

The history of the Tour de France was deeply impacted by the First World War, with 1914 being the last Tour before the onslaught of the First World War. In fact, the 1914 Tour began on 28 June, the very day that the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo.  That Tour ended on 26 July 1914. Six days later, on 1 August 1914, France would mobilize for war. Many of the pre-war cyclists would answer this call of mobilization, including the champion cyclists of the 1907-1910 Tours. All three former champions would die during the war, along with many of their former competitors.

There would not be another Tour until 1919, which served as a sombre Tour of the devastated French countryside. The country’s road system was utterly destroyed, and the Tour’s wealth of riders gutted by casualties lost to the war. In an economy ravaged by war, individual bicycle manufacturers were unable to sponsor entire teams and thus formed a unique collective, sponsoring a large portion of riders as “La Sportive”. As a result of all these factors, only ten cyclists would finish the race, the lowest completion in the Tour’s history.

Cyclists passing through the ruined village of Brie, March 1917. Such devastation would have remained during the 1919 Tour de France.
© IWM (Q 1870)

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