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Bikes - An Illustrated History


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History of Bicycle Racing
Cyrille Van Hauwaert

Cyrille Van Hauwaert was a dominant early rider in the Paris-Roubaix Classic from 1908-1911. During that time he won the race twice and took either second or third place in the others. Note how similar his bike appears to bikes of today.

Image - public domain

Of course, once people started building bikes, it didn't take long for them to want to race each other.

History holds the first recorded bicycle race to have taken place May 31, 1868 at the Parc de Saint-Cloud, Paris. The 1.2 km jaunt was won by Englishman James Moore on a wooden bike with iron tires inlaid with ball-bearings that helped speed him past the competition.

Interest in bicycle racing grew in proportion to its great rise in general popularity, and so it was only natural that bike racing was included as one of the events in the first modern Olympic games held in Athens, Greece in 1896.

During this period track cycling became immensely popular both in the United States and Europe. Multi-day cycling competitions drawing massive crowds were held in venues such as Madison Square Garden, which was built specifically for bike racing, and press coverage provided up-to-the-minute details for radio audiences nationwide.

In Europe particularly, road racing captured the attention of cyclists and sports enthusiasts alike, and it was around this time that epic city-to-city races such as Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege were started.

The first Tour de France was held in 1903 as a promotional event for L'Auto, a French newspaper. The yellow jersey worn by the lead rider in the Tour de France is a tie to the yellow paper that the newspaper was printed on.

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