Cheating started with the inaugural Tour de France in 1903. In the first contest, rivals Maurice Garin and Fernand Augereau nearly came to blows after Garin told his friends to knock Augereau off his bike twice. When Augereau recovered, Garin lept from his bicycle and stomped on Augereau’s bike himself until the wheels were mangled and inoperative.
Physical attacks were just the beginning when it came to cheating in the early days. The long night rides during the race practically encouraged cheating, since race officials couldn’t monitor the riders. In the second race in 1904, riders reportedly tossed tacks and nails onto the road to puncture tires. Some riders hopped onto trains to get a head start during the race.
The prize motivated the cheating. The overall winner took home 3,000 francs, the equivalent of two years’ wages for a manual laborer. While professionals were the favorites, the field was filled out with amateur cyclists looking for a big payday – and they were more than willing to cut corners to get that windfall.