Ten x Ten: Celebrating the 100th Tour

In celebration of the 100th Tour de France, we've commissioned a set of limited edition posters to celebrate some of the greatest moments in La Grande Boucle's history.

Called the TEN x TEN project, nine of the best moments from Tour history were revealed by Cycling Central, with the 10th moment decided by Cycling Central fans. These limited edition posters were made available for auction on eBay, with all proceeds going to help the great work of the Amy Gillett Foundation. See the 10 moments immortalized below by artist Bruce Doscher, plus visit http://sbs-tenxten.com/ for more on the project.

Cadel Evans 2011
After a disappointing end to the 2010 Tour, Evans started 2011 in a rich vein of form. Winning the general classification at the Tirreno–Adriatico and Tour de Romandie and finishing second at the Criterium du Dauphine, he set the stage for a run at one of Australia’s final sporting frontiers. The 2011 Tour proved to be tight. After coming second in Stage 1 and winning Stage 4 Evans battled to stay in the top 5. Two grueling mountain stages through the Alps helped Evans fight back to be within striking distance for the penultimate stage, the time trial at Frenoble. Starting a mere 57 seconds behind race leader Andy Schelck, a blistering ride saw him take the lead by 1 minute 34 seconds, ensuring he would wear the maillot jaune on to the Champs-Elysees. In true Australian style immediate calls were made for a national holiday; instead Evans would have to be content with an interruption by the Prime Minister on his way to a nice hot bath and a place in the echelons of Australian Sporting legends.

Le Tour departs
In 1903, publishers of French sports newspaper L’Auto-Vélo were forced by a competitor to change their publication’s name to L’Auto. Worried the paper would lose its cycling audience, editor Henri Desgrange wanted an idea to help hold their interest. His chief cycling reporter, Georges Lefèvre, suggested a cycling race around France, beginning and ending in Paris. Desgrange was highly sceptical of Lefèvre’s idea - but also desperate to boost his paper’s circulation. He gave Lefèvre the go-ahead, and they announced the launch of the Tour de France in L’Auto: ‘We intend to run the greatest cycling trial in the entire world.’ The inaugural Tour was a roaring success, beginning on July 1 and finishing up on July 19, 1903, with the first-ever title going to Frenchman Maurice Garin.

A tradition is born 1919
Prior to 1919 the Tour’s race leader was identifiable by his green armband, but during the 1919 Tour, journalists asked that the leader be made more visible and thus easier to follow. And so the tradition of the maillot jaune – the yellow jersey – was born. The colour of the jersey was based on the yellow broadsheet that French sports newspaper, L’Auto, was printed on - the same publication that launched the Tour back in 1903. Frenchman Eugène Christophe was first to wear the jersey, though it’s said he wasn’t particularly happy about it - spectators told him he looked like a canary.

A landmark finish 1975
From 1903 to 1967 the Tour de France finished at the Parc des Princes, before moving to the Vélodrome de Vincennes in 1968. But with the final stage becoming increasingly popular, organisers decided the Tour deserved a more prestigious ending. In 1975 they reached an agreement with Jacques Chirac, then mayor of Paris, to move the finish line to the famous heart of the French capital. Every year since, the Champs-Élysées has set the stage for a spectacular Tour finale.

Vietto’s sacrifice
Not every Tour hero is the one to take home the yellow jersey; some are celebrated for their sacrifice.  Such was the case with Rene Vietto in 1934. Vietto, a 20-year old Tour rookie, started the Tour as a support rider for the great Antonin Magne. But he soon proved his individual worth as a phenomenal climber; it is said he ‘had wings on the mountain’. He won four stages and soon rivalled Magne himself. But in the fifteenth stage of the Tour, Magne  – who had struggled with mechanical difficulties throughout the race - crashed on the Portet d’Aspet climb. In a remarkable act of self-sacrifice, Vietto turned around, rode back to Magne and gave the defending champion his front wheel – relinquishing his own chance at victory. An iconic Tour image shows Vietto sitting by the roadside in tears as the peloton leaves him behind. Though he continued to compete for many years, Vietto never won the yellow jersey – but he is remembered as a hero regardless.

Eddy Merckx
When Eddy Merckx stepped up to compete in his first Tour in 1969, he already had several impressive professional wins under his belt. But no one suspected this Tour rookie was about to redefine cycling – and go on to become the greatest pro-cyclist of all time. Within days it was clear Merckx was a force to be reckoned with. He blew away the competition to win six stages and took out the yellow, green and polka dot jersey – a feat that remains unsurpassed to this day. Merckx went on to win four more Tours and countless other titles (with his relentless hunger for victory earning him his nickname), but it was his Tour performance in 1969 that announced to the world a star had arrived.

'Le Gentleman' waits
The Tour de France has long represented sportsmanship at its finest. This was never more the case than in 2012, when race leader Bradley Wiggins slowed the peloton in order to wait for defending champion, Cadel Evans. Evans fell victim to saboteurs who had thrown tacks on the course near the Mur de Peguere climb. With his tire punctured, he was forced to wait an agonising two minutes for a tire change, only to puncture two more times further on. Up ahead, Wiggins became aware of what had happened. In a display of true sportsmanship and deference to Tour tradition, he decided to slow the peloton and give his rival opportunity to catch up. As a result of his honourable act, the French media - having previously failed to warm to Wiggins - finally embraced the British cyclist and crowned him ‘le Gentleman’.

Italia Vittorioso

In 1924, Ottavio Bottecchia became the first Italian to win the Tour de France. He was also the first rider to wear the yellow jersey from start to finish, winning the first stage of the Tour and remaining race leader to the very end. His victory was celebrated throughout Italy, and he followed up with another Tour win in 1925. But just two years after winning his second Tour title, Bottechia’s story took a tragic turn. One morning in June 1927, Bottechia set out on a routine training ride. Later that day he was found fatally injured by the roadside near Peonis, not far from his home. His bicycle was found only metres - perfectly intact. With no clues as to what had happened and no witnesses, Bottecchia’s death was ruled an accident – but many believed he was murdered for his anti-fascist beliefs. Along with his extraordinary career, the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death and ongoing speculation as to how he died place Bottechia’s story firmly within Tour legend.

The 8-second epic

At the beginning of the 1989 Tour, Frenchmen Laurent Fignon was at the peak of his career and a clear favourite to win. In comparison, his opponent Greg LeMond had struggled to regain form after a near-fatal hunting accident in 1987. But LeMond surprised his fellow competitors and spectators with his performance throughout the first stage of the Tour, and continued to improve - even taking the lead as the peloton approached the Pyrenees. Fignon regained the lead, but a neck-and-neck battle between the pair had begun. In the end, with only a 24km time trial remaining, Fignon looked set to take the title as expected. But LeMond set a cracking pace and proceeded to eat away at Fignon’s 50-second lead, setting a new record in the process.  LeMond crossed the finish line in time to win the Tour, defeating a devastated Fignon by a margin of just 8 seconds – the closest in Tour history.

Zabel’s six in a row

German cyclist Erik Zabel is considered by many to be the most gifted sprinter in cycling history, and with good reason; the 2001 Tour saw him win the green jersey for the sixth consecutive year - a Tour record that remains unbeaten.  But his sixth jersey didn’t come easy; Zabel had to battle it out with Aussie Stuart O’Grady in a fight to the very end, finally crossing to the finish line at the Champs-Élysées in second place to ensure the win. Afterwards, Zabel and O’Grady rode the cobblestones together with arms over each other’s shoulders to signify their mutual respect.

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