By Catarina Cowden

The Tour de France has quite a history. Every year it brings thousands of dedicated fans to watch three weeks of uphill battles and long stages, falls and failures, wins and newly broken records. Every year a little bit more history is made.

As the race route has increasingly strayed outside of France (this year some stages will also pass through the U.K., Belgium and Spain), the Tour has gained popularity and prominence around the world. The 21 stages of the 2014 Tour include nine flat stages, five hilly stages, six mountain stages with five high-altitude finishes, and one individual time-trial stage.

The rules have become important. Included in our 11 things you didn't know about the Tour de France are reasons that the rules are now so strictly implemented. Among the 198 riders and their teams, there are different objectives. Certain riders skills are used for particular terrains and to win specific recognition and jerseys.

In the past, the competitive nature of the Tour was at an entirely different level. Cyclists were harsh. Rules did not matter. Cheating was the norm -- from the use of itching power to spiking opponents' drinks. The Tour de France was a nasty contest in which to make enemies early on.

But the crowds always flocked. Considering how long the event lasts, these fans are dedicated. They stand for hours a day just to see a quick flash of cyclists riding by. There is even a Tour de France icon/mascot, El Diablo, who is known by fans for his wacky costume and entertaining ways.

Now more than a century old, the Tour de France has a history that repays exploring. In doing so, we are exposed to the ways of the times past Tours were held in. From the first Tour winner, Maurice Garin, to the unwritten rules of riders, find out 11 things you didn’t know about the Tour de France.

11 Things You Didn't Know About Tour De France: Smoking On Course And More Slideshow


El Diablo

Known as the devil or 'El Diablo', Didi Senft, a German bicycle designer, has become an unofficial mascot at the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. He has been dressed in his red devil costume since 1993 painting his trident on the road. Senft has also created a number of oversized and eccentric bicycles including one for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.


Certain Health Concerns Were Ignored

A famous poster from a race in the 1920s shows competitors smoking cigarettes while riding. It is also said that they would fill their water bottles with wine.


Demonstrations Are Held

Because the Tour de France offers a grand stage, it is often interrupted by demonstrations. Everything from steel workers striking in 1982, to last week’s topless protest against FGM.


Cheating Was a Major Issue

Maurice Garin is known for his 1903 win in the first Tour de France. But he is better known for being stripped of his second title in 1904 for cheating along with the following three competitors. Riders were notorious for cheating. They would get tows from cars, spread broken glass and nails in the road, or spike each other's drinks.


Lead Water Bottles

The winner of the 1947 tour, Jean Robic, was known for being a good climber but not heavy enough for a good descent. His manager arranged for water bottles full of lead to be given to Robic at the top of climbs to help speed his descent.


'Pauses Pipi'

Everyone has to pee at some point during over five hours of cycling a day. So competitors have an unwritten agreement to take collective pees so that no one passes anyone else unfairly during the 'pauses pipi'.


'King of Mountain' Jersey

The King of the Mountains (leader of performance on mountain climbs) gets to wear the Polka Dot Jersey. The first sponsor of this white jersey with red polka dots, which was introduced in 1975, was a chocolate maker called Poulain, which used red and white for its branding.


Extra Travel

Did you know that competitors aren't riding their bikes everywhere? The next day's stage often does not start where the previous one ended. That means riders have to take long drives, boat rides, or trains to the next starting line.

previous next

For the complete list of the 11 Things You Didn't Know About The Tour De France, go to

More From The Active Times:
-- 15 Fantastic U.S. Bike Trails
-- 5 Exercises That'll Make You a Stronger Cyclist
-- Start Cycling Right Now: 7 Entry-Level Road Bikes Under $800
-- Yoga for Cyclists: The 7 Best Poses