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Henri Desgrange Photo Gallery

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As father of the Tour de France, Henri Desgrange (January 31, 1865 - August 16, 1940) is surely the most important person in cycle racing history.

Desgrange wore many hats before he settled into his job as editor of L'Auto and dictator-for-life of the Tour de France. He worked in a law office but the cycling bug bit him hard. He took up racing, mostly on the track and then worked as a director of the Parc des Princes velodrome in Paris as well as doing promotion work for bike companies.

When a group of right-wing industrialists unhappy with the politics and advertising rates of the dominant sports newspaper started their own paper, Desgrange got the job of editing it. The paper, after some legal tussles was titled L'Auto, fought a losing battle for circulation. Desperate to find some way to promote the dying paper, a staff writer suggested a huge race, like the six-days on the track, but all around France. With some initial trepidation on Desgrange's part, the suggestion was put into action

The first edition of the Tour de France in 1903 was a hit. L'Auto's sales soared. What they had done was revolutionary, Desgrange and his staff had invented stage racing. True, there had been earlier multi-day races, but they came to nothing. Stage racing's rules and nomenclature all come from Desgrange and the Tour.

Desgrange ruled the Tour and much of European racing with an iron fist. He was a despot and frequently feuded with racers who found his arbitrary rules unfair. Still, he guided the Tour to maturity and its place as the dominant race in cycling today.

Ill health forced him to give up management of the Tour beginning in 1936 when he couldn't follow the Tour after prostate surgery.

Major victories:

Henri Desgrange set the first recognized World Hour Record, going 35.325 kilometers in an hour on May 11, 1893 on Paris' Buffalo velodrome

Photos:

Henri Desgrange

Henri Desgrange did a lot of trike racing

Henri Desgrange

Here he is on a two-wheeler.

Henri Desgrange

Desgrange, probably in the the early 1900s

Henri Desgrange

Desgrange at his office.

Henri Desgrange

1906 Tour de France, Henri Desgrange watches riders on the Ballon d'Alsace

Henri Desgrange in the 1913 Tour de France

Henri Desgrange smokes a cigarette while he watches a miserable, suffering rider in the 1913 Tour de France.

Henri Desgrange

Undated photo of Desgrange

Henri Desgrange with Andre leducq

Should be early 1930s. Desgrange (center) with two-time Tour winner André Leducq (left).

Henri Desgrange

Desgrange looking like cycling's stern patriarch.

Henri Desgrange

Photo of Desgrange, probably in the 1930s.

Henri Desgrange with Gino Bartali

Henri Desgrange with Gino Bartali in 1938.

Henri DEsgrange racing

Desgrange was a life-long devotee to fitness.

Henri Desgrange

Undated photo of Desgrange

Desgrange n the cover of Voila magazine

Desgrange on the cover of Voila magazine of July 7, 1934. He is given the title he preferred: Le Père du Tour de France (Father of the Tour de France).

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