The Timeline: Tour de France

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The Independent Online

The Dreyfus Affair, 1899

In 1899, the Dreyfus Affair polarised the country, with the innocence of a French soldier convicted of selling military secrets to the Germans, Alfred Dreyfus, hotly debated. The pre-eminent sports paper of the day, Le Velo, conveyed the view that Dreyfus was innocent. The bias led to the formation of L'Auto by a collection of "anti-Dreyfusards". Two years later Geo Lefevre, the cycling correspondent of L'Auto, suggested a cycle race to boost sales.

Inaugural race, 1903

In January 1903, news of the race was announced by Henri Desgrange, the editor of L'Auto. Long-distance races were popular in France, but the Tour would be far and away the longest. An initially muted public response was overcome the after riders' fees and prizes were introduced.

The boom years, 1908 – 1933

Despite organisers' claim that the Tour of 1904, would be the last, the race grew in size to become one of Europe's major sporting events. By 1923, L'Auto had seen its circulation boosted from 25,000 to 500,000. This period also saw the codification of the tournament's rules, with the introduction of the frontrunner's yellow jersey in 1919.

Sponsorship, 1930 – 1969

Desgrange was anti-sponsorship and would insist that riders' bicycles were plain, unbranded, yellow. From 1930, the system of so-called "tourist riders" and sponsored competitors was replaced in favour of sponsorship-free national teams. In the 1960s, organisers capitulated to increasing pressure to readmit trade teams. Sales of bicycles has fallen, and manufacturers claimed they needed Tour publicity to stave off industrial collapse. In 1962, trade teams returned, then in 1967, and 1968, national teams were once again introduced before the Tour became permanently trade in 1969.

Strikes and scandal, 1966 – 1988

Drug use and increasing pressure from commercial sponsors prompted the sport's governing body, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), to limit daily distances and impose rests. In 1966, riders went on strike in opposition to a drugs test mid-route, and the next 15 years were marked by industrial action. In 1968, it was the sports' journalists that went on strike, complaining that the race was boring. In 1978, riders crossed the finish line on foot to protest against their early rising time. In 1982, the race was disrupted by striking steel-workers and in 1987 by striking photographers. In 1988, the entire race went on strike in protest against a drugs test on Pedro Delgado, the year's victor.

Testing times, 2010

After decades of doping scandals, some involving a number of the world's most famous riders, the start of this year's Tour de France saw the head of the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) questioning the credibility of the testing at this year's race. This follows concerns over the way anti-doping was being handled by UCI.