Watch the Tour de France today and you’ll see athletes built specifically to crush insane distances over several days. They train to be the fastest, live on precisely designed diets, and likely drink on very rare occasions. During the race, their diets are even more regulated, and alcohol is almost certainly limited to a few sips of celebration champaign or something similar. They are built to do what they do at the highest capacity possible for the human body.

Watch the Tour de France from 60 years ago, and you’ll see a bit of a different story. Rather than refuel packages with energy gels and energy bars, cyclists were given bags with some bread, fruit, rice, and other carbohydrates. And, rather than drinking water and electrolyte mixes to stay hydrated, cyclists would raid cafés for wine, beer, and champaign.

According to the 1962 documentary “Vive le Tour”, the “drinking raid” was one of the more important features of the older Tour de France races. Cyclists rushed into the local cafés, shoving aside everyone in their way and demanding access to any and all alcohol. The raids would leave racers several minutes behind, forcing them to spend miles just trying to catch up. At the end of the race, since the cyclists almost never actually paid for the supplies, the director of the tour would receive multiple bills from the affected shops.

It’s hard to imagine that any sort of alcohol made these athletes faster or more successful. I think we can be pretty darn certain that it actually slowed them down quite a bit. But there really isn’t much that fits a tour through France like the raiding of cafés for wine and champagne. Honestly, I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that they were carrying cheese boards as well!

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