Best Known For
French bicyclist Henri Desgrange is best known for organizing the first Tour de France.
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The conditions were deemed too hard, however, and a week before the event only 15 people had dared to sign up. Panicked, Desgrange then shortened the race dates to July 1 through July 19, promised a five franc per day allowance to the first 50 riders, and increased the prize money to 20,000 francs. Suddenly, 60 riders had signed up.
Still afraid the race would be a failure, Desgrange didn't attend the first Tour de France on July 1, 1903; instead,
he allowed writer Georges Lefvre to handle the logistics. The race, however, was a runaway success, with a crowd of 20,000 paying spectators at the finish line waiting for the winner. After the race, Desgrange released a special edition of l'Auto, which sold 130,000 copies.
In 1936, after suffering from health issues, Henri Desgrange discovered he would need two prostate operations, with the Tour de France to fall between them. Desgrange convinced his surgeon to allow him to follow the race. Laid in a car packed with cushions, while a doctor accompanied him, Desgrange followed part of the first stage of the race before he was forced to return home due to ill health. He soon retired from L'Auto, and his work on the Tour de France.
On August 16, 1940, Desgrange died at home. A monument dedicated to his memory stands at the Col du Galibier, and a prize is offered each year to the first rider over the col in the Tour de France race.
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