The race was first organized in 1903 to increase paper sales for the magazine L'Auto. It is currently run by the Amaury Sport Organization. The race has been held annually since its first edition in 1903 except when it was stopped for the two World Wars. As the Tour gained prominence and popularity the race was lengthened and its reach began to extend around the globe. Participation expanded from a primarily French field, as riders from all over the world began to participate in the race each year.
The number of teams usually varies between 20 and 22, with nine riders in each. All of the stages are timed to the finish; the riders' times are compounded with their previous stage times. The rider with the lowest aggregate time is the leader of the race and gets to don the coveted yellow jersey. While the general classification garners the most attention there are other contests held within the Tour: the points classification for the sprinters, the mountains classification for the climbers, young rider classification for riders under the age of 26, and the team classification for the fastest teams. Gaining a stage win is also a hotly contested competition, fought for by a specialist cycling sprinter on each team.