Tour de France: The history of the La Caravane Du Tour

Updated 1747 GMT (0147 HKT) July 18, 2017

Story highlights

  • Publicity caravan invented in 1930
  • 47% of fans flock primarily to see the caravan

(CNN)It goes without saying that cycling fans flock to the French roads and mountains in their millions to catch a glimpse of the world's best riders -- some of the toughest athletes on the planet -- compete in the Tour de France.

But there is one other attraction of the race that gets those standing roadside to scream almost as loudly: The publicity caravan -- La Caravane Du Tour.
The brainchild of Tour founder Henri Desgrange, the caravan was designed in an attempt to divert teams away from being run by individual cycling brands and instead be raced by national teams.
Each rider would be equipped with the same bicycle supplied by the organizers. But how would they cover the costs? Step forward Desgrange and his revolutionary caravan.
Backed by many of France's biggest brands, the caravan was a hit -- and its popularity hasn't waned.
Not only did Desgrange come up with an ingenious way to fund his new Tour format, he inadvertently went on to create what is now one of the integral parts of the modern Tour.
According to the official Le Tour website, 47% of fans come primarily to see the caravan.
Preceding the race at each stage, the 45-minute parade -- winding through all of the Tours 3,540 kilometers -- provides those standing roadside with entertainment and freebies.
In 2016 alone, brands handed out 14 MILLION giveaways to grateful bystanders -- up to 12 million fans line the roads during the race -- while 600 people were needed to ensure the 170-vehicle parade ran smoothly.