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1903 Tour de France

1st edition: July 1 to July 18, 1903

Results, stages with running GC, startlist, photos and history

1904 Tour | Tour de France Database | 1903 Tour Quick Facts | 1903 Tour de France Final GC | Stage results with running GC | startlist | The Story of the 1903 Tour de France |

1903 Tour de France map

Map of the 1903 Tour de France

Dirty Feet: Early days of the Tour de France

Les Woodland's book Dirty Feet: How the great unwashed created the Tour de France is available as an audiobook here.

1903 Tour Quick Facts:

2,428 km raced at an average speed of 25.68 km/hr.

60 starters and 21 classified finishers

Henri Desgrange, editor of L'Auto (ancestor to today's l'Equipe), was desperate to find a way to win a circulation war with competing sports newspaper Le Vélo. The Tour de France was suggested to Desgrange as a sales promotion. It was to be like a Six-Day race, only on the road. The race was an instant hit. L'Auto's circulation soared and Desgrange went down in history as the father of the greatest sporting event in the world.

Note that in the first edition the stages are staggeringly long. The races would have to start in the dark in order to finish stages that could take over 17 hours to complete.

A few of notes about the early Tours. Distances are approximate. Riders could abandon a stage and still start the next stage and compete for stage prizes but they were out of the race for the General Classification.

There are many different times recorded for the early Tour. Pothier's 2hr 59min 2sec second-place margin is the one given in the Tour's official centennial book.

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1903 Tour de France final complete General Classification

Rider's nationality is listed if his sponsor is not known

1 Maurice Garin (La Française) 93h 33m 14s
2. Lucien Pothier (La Française) @ 2hr 59min 21sec
3 Fernand Augereau (La Française) @ 4hr 29min 24sec
4 Rodolfo Muller (La Française) @ 4hr 39min 30sec 
5 Jean Fischer (La Française) @ 4hr 58min 44sec
6 Marcel Kerff (Belgium) @ 5hr 52min 24sec
7 Julien Lootens "Samson" (Brennabor) @ 8hr 31min 8sec
8 Georges Pasquier (France) @ 10hr 24min 4sec
9 François Beaugendre (France) @ 10hr 52min 14sec
10   Aloïs Catteau (La Française) @ 12hr 44min 57sec
11 Jean Dargassis (France) @ 13hr 39min 40sec
12 Ferdinand Payan (Champeyrache) @ 19hr 9min 2sec
13 Julien Girbe (Cycles J.C.) @ 23hr 16min 52sec
14 Isidore Lechartier (France) @ 24hr 5min 13sec
15 Josef Fischer (Diamant) @ 25hr 14min 26sec
16 Alexandre Foureaux (France) @ 31hr 50min 52sec
17 Gaston-René Salais (Damas) @ 32hr 34min 43sec
18 Emile Moulin (France) @ 49hr 43min 15sec
19 Georges Borot (France) @ 51hr 37min 38sec
20 Pierre Desvages (France) @ 62hr 53min 54sec
21 Arsène Millocheau (France) @ 64h 47m 22s

1903 Tour stage results and running General Classification

Stage 1: Wednesday, July 1, Paris - Lyon, 467 km

1. Maurice Garin: 17hr 45min 13sec
2. Emile Pagie @ 55sec
3. Leon Georget @ 34min 59sec
4. Fernand Augereau @ 1hr 2min 50sec
5. Jean Fischer @ 1hr 4min 55sec
6. Marcel Kerff @ 1hr 42min 55sec
7. Alois Catteau @ 1hr 48min57sec
8. Ernest Piven @ 1hr 49min 49sec
9. Leon Habets @ 2hr 8min 16sec
10. François Beaugendre @ 2hr 8min 27sec

GC after Stage 1: GC times and places same as stage 1 results


Stage 2: Sunday, July 5, Lyon - Marseille, 374 km

Major Ascent: Col de la Républic

1. Hyppolyte Aucouturier: 14hr 28min 53sec
2. Leon Georget s.t.
3. Eugene Brange @ 26min 6sec
4. Maurice Garin @ 26min 7sec
5. Rodolphe Muller s.t.
6. Lucien Pothier s.t.
7. Marcel Kerff @ 39min 37sec
8. Fernand Augereau @ 57min 17sec
9. Georges Pasquier @ 1hr 32min 10sec
10. François Beaugendre s.t.


GC after Stage 2:
1. Maurice Garin
2. Leon Georget @ 8min 52sec
3. Fernand Augereau @ 1hr 34min


Stage 3: Wednesday, July 8, Marseille - Toulouse, 423 km

1. Hippolyte Aucouturier: 17hr 55min 4sec
2. Eugene Brange @ 32min 22sec
3. Julien Lootens "Samson" s.t.
4. Maurice Garin s.t.
5. Lucien Pothier s.t.
6. François Beaugendre @ 1hr
7. Jean Fischer @ 1hr 35min 18sec
8. Rodolphe Muller @ 1hr 35min 19sec
9. Alois Catteau s.t.
10. Marcel Kerff s.t.


GC after Stage 3:
1. Maurice Garin
2. Leon Georget @ 1hr 58min 53sec
3. Lucien Pothier @ 2hr 58min 1sec

Stage 4: Sunday, July 12, Toulouse - Bordeaux, 268 km

1. Charles Laeser: 8hr 46min
2. Julien Lootens "Samson" @ 4min 3sec
3. Rodolphe Muller s.t.
4. Leon Georget s.t.
5. Maurice Garin s.t.
6. Jean Fischer s.t.
7. Lucien Pothier s.t.
8. Eugene Brange @ 7min 41sec
9. Alois Catteau s.t.
10. Jean Dargassies @ 26min


GC after Stage 4:
1. Maurice Garin
2. Leon Georget @ 1hr 58min 53sec
3. Fernand Augereau @ 2hr 58min 1sec


Stage 5: Monday, July 13, Bordeaux - Nantes, 425 km

1. Maurice Garin: 16hr 26min 31sec
2. Georges Pasquier s.t.
3. Lucien Pothier s.t.
4. Fernand Augereau @ 10min 35sec
5. Ambroise Garin @ 33min 34sec
6. Rodolphe Muller @ 36min 33sec
7. Jean Fischer @ 1hr 4min 3sec
8. Marcel Kerff s.t.
9. Jean Dargassies @ 1hr 21min 9sec
10. Ferdinand Payan @ 1hr 33min 24sec


GC after Stage 5:
1. Maurice Garin
2. Lucien Pothier @ 2hr 58min 1sec
3. Fernand Augereau @ 4hr 29min 14sec

6th and Final Stage: Saturday, July 18, Nantes - Paris, 471 km

1. Maurice Garin: 18hr 9min
2. Fernand Augereau @ 10sec
3. Julien Lootens "Samson" s.t.
4. Jean Fischer @ 1min 20sec
5. Lucien Pothier @ 1min 30sec
6. Rodolphe Muller @ 2min
7. Alexandre Foureaux @ 2min 30sec
8. Julien Girbe @ 2min 35sec
9. François Beaugendre @ 21min
10. Marcel Kerff @ 53min

1903 Tour de France final complete General Classification

Roster of Starting Riders

Hyppolite Aucouturier (France)
Fernand Augereau (France)
Louis Babrel (France)
Lucien Barroy (France)
Ludwig Bartelmann (Germany)
Francois Beaugendre (France)
Bendene (France)
Georges Borot (France)
Eugene Brange (France)
Alois Catteau (France)
Claude Chapperon (France)
Charrier (France)
Jean Dargassies (France)
Daumain (France)
Philippe Deballade (France)
Pierre Desvages (France)
Victor Dupre (France)
Durandeau (France)
H. Ellinamourt (France)
Jean Fischer (France)
Joseph Fischer (Germany)
L. Fougere (France)
A. Foureaux (France)
Maurice Garin (France)
Henri Gauban (France)
Eugene Geay (France)
Leon Georget (France)
Julien Girbe (France)
Guetier (France)
Gustave Guillarme (France)
Leon Habits (France)
Antoine Jaeck (Switzerland)
Marcel Kerff (Belgium)
Charles Laeser (Switzerland)
Lassartigue (France)
Lechartier (France)
Victor Lefevre (France)
Marcel Lequatre (Switzerland)
Julien Lootens (Belgium) raced as "Samson". Some results use only this name.
Paul Mercier (Switzerland)
Ansene Millocheau (France)
Monachon (France)
Emile Moulin (France)
Benjamin Mounier (France)
Rodolfo Muller (Italy)
Hyppolyte Pagie (France)
Arthur Pasquier (France)
Ferdinand Payan (France)
Armand Perin (France)
Leon Pernette (France)
Ernest Pivin (France)
Lucien Pothier (France)
Francois Poussel (France)
Leon Riche (France)
Rene' Salais (France)
Jules Sales (Belgium)
Henri Timmermann (France)
E. Torisani (France)
Paul Tripper (France)
Edouard Wattelier (France)

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The Story of the 1903 Tour de France

This excerpt is from "The Story of the Tour de France", Volume 1 If you enjoy it we hope you will consider purchasing the book, either print or electronic. The Amazon link here will make either purchase easy.

TDF volume 1

1903. Just days after it lost the lawsuit, on Jan 19, 1903, L'Auto announced the first Tour de France. It was to be "the greatest cycling trial in the entire world. A race more than a month long: Paris to Lyon to Marseille to Toulouse to Bordeaux to Nantes to Paris." The first schedule was for a 5-week race with a May 31 start and a finish in Paris on July 5. The winner would be the racer with the lowest elapsed time racing after the 6 stages. This total time was and still is called the "General Classification".

With a week to go before the start only 15 riders were signed up. As a sign of the adaptability and willingness to change that has always characterized the Tour, Desgrange shortened and re-scheduled the race to a July 1 start and July 18 finish. There would be 2 to 4 rest days between each of the stages except for stage 4, which would be held the day after the 268-kilometer third stage. To attract more riders, expense money of 5 francs a day was promised to the first 50 racers who signed up and a 20,000 franc purse of prize money was dangled.

Desgrange got his first peloton. 60 riders departed from the now famous Cafe au Réveil-Matin in Montgeron on the southern outskirts of Paris at 3:16 PM, July 1. Of these, 21 were sponsored or professional racers. In the pack, there were a few racers who competed under a pseudonym. Racing was a sketchy business and not always held in high repute. Julien Lootens raced the 1903 Tour as Samson. Later Lucien Mazan would compete in the Tour as Petit-Breton.

Lefèvre, only 26 at the time, traveled with the race while Desgrange remained in Paris. Desgrange stationed men along the way, sometimes hidden, to make sure that the riders rode the entire route. They rode 6 stages totaling a staggering 2,428 kilometers.

Desgrange, from the very beginning, wanted his race to be a superhuman test of an individual's endurance and strength. He banned pacers from his race except for the final stage. At the time, racers employed lines of pacers to lead them, much as a protected professional rider uses his team today. At the time this was quite a change from the norm and many, including eventual winner Maurice Garin, doubted that it would work.

The riders get ready to start. Note that what constitutes effective cycle clothing hadn't been settled.

Desgrange's 60-man peloton riding together

Maurice Garin, riding the red, white and blue tricolor bike of his sponsor, La Française, won the first stage of the first Tour, beating Émile Pagie by 55 seconds. The first stage, from Paris to Lyon, was 467 kilometers long, and it took a cruel 17 hours 45 minutes, riding both day and night, for Garin to finish. Only 37 riders were able to complete the day's racing. The 37th rider took more than 20 hours longer than Garin to get to Lyon. Hippolyte Aucouturier, one of the favorites, had to drop out with stomach cramps.

The first stage finish line in Lyon

Leon Georget finishes third in the first stage, 34 minutes, 59 seconds behind stage winner Garin. Georget would drop out of the Tour in stage 5.

Today, that abandonment would put an end to his Tour. Back then, a racer was allowed to race for stage wins even if he had failed to finish a previous stage, which Aucouturier did. A racer who failed to finish a stage was out of contention for the overall lead. Pagie, the victim of a crash in the second stage had to abandon the Tour. He never rode the Tour again.

Maurice Garin, in his trademark white coat and flat cap racing in the '03 Tour

This is the best action photo I have ever seen of Garin

On the first stage, a racer was caught cheating. Jean Fischer was seen pacing behind a car. I haven't found any particular record of a sanction for this breach of the rules. If Desgrange could have known what 1904 was to bring, perhaps he would have made an example of Fischer.

Aucouturier, who was quite revived after dropping out of the first stage, won the second and third stages, from Lyon to Marseilles and Marseilles to Toulouse. Garin maintained his lead, by this time almost 2 hours over second place Léon Georget who would drop out of the race in stage 5. Garin won the penultimate stage, still in the lead.

On July 19, 21 of the 60 finished. The 20,000 spectators at Paris' Parc de Princes velodrome saw Maurice Garin win the final stage and win the Tour. The final finisher came in over two days later. While the famed "Yellow Jersey" worn by the man leading the Tour would not be adopted until 1919, Garin was given a green armband to signify his lead during the 1903 Tour, and the Lanterne Rouge or Red Lantern was used to designate the rider in last place. Arsène Millocheau has the dubious fame of being the first Lanterne Rouge by coming in at 64 hours, 57 minutes, 8 seconds behind Garin in total time.

Garin, riding for the powerful La Française team, was nicknamed "the Chimney-Sweep" for his occupation before he became an accomplished professional bicycle racer. He won the first stage and held the lead throughout the Tour. His win was no accident. He was by far the finest and strongest racer in the Tour. He was already a two-time winner of Paris-Roubaix as well as a victor of Bordeaux-Paris and Paris-Brest-Paris.

Garin is greeted by enthusiastic fans. Guys knew how to grow moustaches back then.

1903 Tour winner Maurice Garin having a smoke. Pictured with him are his son (on right with little bike) and his masseur. Garin's masseur won't be the last man working on a Tour team wearing the dress of a butcher. Antonin Magne, who ran the French National teams, was famous for wearing butcher's garb.

Garin pocketed 6,125 francs for his exploit, enough to buy a gas station where he worked the rest of his life after retiring from racing. To this day, a gas station still stands on the spot of Garin's old station. But as Les Woodland noted in The Unknown Tour de France, no one working there has any idea about the importance of the former owner of the site. Garin is quite forgotten.

Adjusting for currency and inflation across a century is highly inaccurate, but those 6,000 francs Garin won should be something like $40,000 in U.S. dollars. Garin's winning margin of 2 hours and 49 minutes remains the largest in Tour history. The first Tour at 2,428 kilometers remains the second shortest ever. The 1904 Tour was shorter than the 1903 version by 8 kilometers. The average speed for this first Tour was 25.679 kilometers per hour. The 50th Anniversary Tour in 1953 averaged 34.593 kilometers per hour and the speed of the Centennial 2003 Tour was 40.94 kilometers per hour. There were dramatic changes in equipment, training, roads, diet, Tour rules and sometimes even doping over the next 100 years that made this increase possible.

Racers always needed to eat during long stages, but the feed zone has changed a bit since 1903.

The Tour was a fantastic success. Circulation of L'Auto boomed. 130,000 copies were printed for the final stage (an increase of 100,000). Le Vélo went out of business and the Tour de France was born. Desgrange, knowing talent when he saw it, hired Giffard to write for L'Auto.

Final 1903 Tour de France General Classification:

1. Maurice Garin: 94 hours 33 minutes 14 seconds
2. Lucien Pothier @ 2 hours 59 minutes 2 seconds
3. Fernand Augereau @ 4 hours 29 minutes 24 seconds
4. Rodolphe Muller @ 4 hours 39 minutes 30 seconds
5. Jean Fischer @ 4 hours 58 minutes 44 seconds

Leon Georget signs in under the watchful eye of an official. To minimize cheating riders signed in a stops along each stage. It has been noted by others that race officials used to dress much better than they do now.

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