With 180 competitors, 12 million spectators, 3.5 billion television viewers and 21 stages that include 2,200 miles of racing, the Tour de France is the largest sporting event in the world. But today's tour is a far cry from the strange, humble and even controversial early versions of the longest bike race in the world.
In July 1903, five months before Orville and Wilbur Wright first soared through the air in Kitty Hawk, N.C., more than 60 men attempted to ride their bikes 1,500 miles around the entire country of France for their chance at a 12,000-franc grand prize. Only 10 finished the entire race, and Maurice Garin became the race's first champion.
In the years since, the tour has weathered its share of controversies: doping, cheating, boozing and tragic deaths, making the ultimate test of endurance as persistent and determined as those who compete in it.