A tour of the Tour's birthplace

A tribute to the Tour's history

A tribute to the Tour's history (Image credit: Les Woodland)

he Tour de France may have started over 100 years ago, but you can still stroll round Paris and see the offices and cafe where the idea of a 'Tour de France' was born. Les Woodland is your tour guide and historian.

Going to Paris for the Tour? Then make the most of it and walk with the ghosts of cycling history. Here's how…

First of all, you need one of the many métro stations. The network map could be clearer but you should be able to work it out. The lines are numbered and each has a different colour on the map. You get on the right train by looking for the line number and then the platform that shows the station at the end of the line.

You want number 9, direction Pont de Sèvres, and you get out at Montmartre. Now look for the rue du Faubourg Montmartre, which is the turning from the main road right by the station exit.

Walk down the slope until you get to number 10, on the right-hand side. It doesn't look much - just a video shop on the ground floor when I was last there and some doors to the offices above, set back from the pavement. It stands opposite the Théatre de Nord-Ouest and two doors down from the Palace theatre.

But back in 1903 the two floors above the entrance to number 10 belonged to L'Auto. It wasn't a successful paper then and the editor, Henri Desgrange, wasn't good at coming up with ideas. In fact he was so bad that the paper was close to going broke only a few years after it had started. There seemed no way Desgrange could carry out his boast that he would "nail the beak shut" of his rival editor at Le Vélo, a bad-tempered but more imaginative man called Pierre Giffard. And so on the higher of the two floors in 1903 there was a crisis meeting round a big black table.

Click here to read the full story.

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