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Tour de France: then and now

The Tour de France is one of the sporting events with the longest history and traditions. Join us in a look at some of the photos from the Getty archive that highlight how much the Tour de France changes and how much it stays the same.

Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Re-hydrating is essential

Roger Viollet/Getty Images

It may have been done a little differently back in 1964 but the principle is the same. Perhaps most interesting in this photo, sitting fourth from the left wearing number 2 for the St Raphael team is Germany’s Rudi Altig. The first German cycling superstar who passed away on June 11. He had just won the Ronde van Vlaanderen in the spring of 1964 and would go on to win the World Championships in 1966.

And honestly, if Coca Cola was handing out drinks by the roadside wouldn’t you hurry and grab as many as you could?

Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

The Vigilant Police

Michel LAURENT/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

A serious police presence . There may be more of them around to look for terrorists this summer but back in 1975 as today they were essential to make the race happen.

Alp stages are parties

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In July what better way to pend the holidays than take your family camping in the Alps and watch the Tour de France pass by. It was as true in 1962 as it is today. Also true is that a festively coloured cowboy hat makes any tour-watching party better.

Bringing the Tour to the viewers takes an impressive machinery

Guy Breemat / INA via Getty Images

A TV helicopter in the early days of broadcasting the Tour in 1963.

Bernard Allemane / INA via Getty Images

Filming from the motorcycle seemed easy enough already back then. I doubt anyone stood up on the back of that moto the way they do today though.

Winner gets to celebrate with a long awaited smoke

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1960 winner Gastone Nencini takes some time after the finish to take a smoke, his first in a month. Life as a top athlete means sacrifices.

Riders were safer with fewer motorcycles in the race

STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Federico Bahamontes on a stage in the Alps between Saint Etienne and Grenoble in 1959 accompanied by a lot of friends. Don’t worry though, no one is wearing a helmet so it should be completely safe.

The Publicity Caravan

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Since 1930 the publicity caravan has been a steady fixture at the TdF. Here in 1969 we see a classic example of the decorated truck on the Col de la Croix de Fer. Originally the caravan was introduced to boost revenue for the race as they moved to a format with national rather than sponsored trade teams. But it was to become a popular part of the whole TdF spectacle and today it is hard to picture a Tour without the caravan. The French plastic keychain industry sure couldn’t.

Lipnitzki/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

Back in 1959 Chris Horner’s younger sister Yvette graced the caravan with her good looks, sombrero and accordion music. All in all, looking at pictures it seems hard to overestimate the role the accordion has played in the TdF spectacle over the years.

There was more respect in the peloton

Riders back in the day were not the rowdy bunch we see these days but had more respect for the rules. Here at a rail crossing in 1953.

Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

And in 1939........

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Note the gendarme who surely would have stopped the delinquents if he hadn’t been so busy holding up the boom for them.

Some may throw urine these days

...... but in 1952, if the Campionissimo Fausto Coppi came by you got out your huge watering can and helped out. They were friendlier times.

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The Tour goes into the mountains

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Back in 1910, the first year the TdF went into the Pyrenées high mountains, the tradition of freshly paving the TdF climbs had seemingly not yet been established.

It’s all about the bike

Roger Viollet/Getty Images

The rider with superior technology has always had a competitive edge in the TdF. Just ask Laurent Fignon. In the picture above we can see that in the early days of derailleurs one lucky rider can stay on his bike and use his newfangled shifting as the others had to hop off and flip their wheels to get in an easier gear as the climb to the Lautaret starts. Marginal gains.

Cows will be cows

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Always be vigilant on an Alpine descent, you never know when the local herds will claim their rightful place in the middle of the road. Usually their motto is “we mooove for no one”. Please note the look on the farmer’s face which clearly says “I can try and tell them what to do but they rarely listen anyway”.

The TdF Director needs a bit of style and class

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Jaques Goddet in 1956. The guy ruled the TdF with an iron fist but still managed to pull off the casual safari look. Impressive.

There will always be f***ing runners........

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..... as Charley Gaul discovered already back in 1955. The selfie stick may not have been invented back then but when you’re a fat little dude running with a cigarette in your mouth you are bound to have your picture taken anyway. Gaul would ultimately win the 253 km stage from Thonon to Briancon, passing the Cols de Aravis and Galibier on the way.