The first rider ever to be given the title ‘Lantern Rouge’ was Arsene Millocheau in the 1903 Tour de France. Named after the red lanterns hung at the end of freight trains so that conductors could see that the cars hadn’t become disconnected, the title is bestowed to the rider who finishes in last place. In the 1903 Tour M. Millocheau arrived in Paris nearly 65-hours behind the race winner, Maurice Garin.
In a race as grueling as a Grand Tour even the sternest spectators can understand the struggle of a rider, particularly the lesser-known domestiques, who battle just to finish. The image of the last man home is a symbolic truth of the suffering of road racing, and it has become an honour in itself to be the Lantern Rouge. From the 1950s riders would hold their own slow-bicycle races to see who could finish dead last.
Roger Chaussabel, the Lantern Rouge of 1956, declared “I can’t ride fast, I can’t climb, I can’t sprint… I’m a complete roadman. A Tour-man, therefore.”
The Rapha ‘Lantern Rouge Award’ at the Amgen Tour of California:
In celebration of the glory of suffering, Rapha is proud to honor the Lantern Rouge each day of the Amgen Tour of California. The rider who crosses the line last each stage will be recognized with a unique Rapha Lantern Rouge cap, made specifically for and bestowed only to those racers who fight to finish last- rather than abandon. Each day before the stage depart the ATOC officials will present the Lantern Rouge rider alongside the jersey leaders.