How the Remarkable Tour de France Trophy Has Evolved over a Decade
Hand-sculpting the one-of-a-kind prize since 2011, revered Czech glassmaker Lasvit has also worked with the Campana Brothers, Kengo Kuma, and Zaha Hadid
Winning the Tour de France is one of the world’s greatest athletic achievements. Speeding through tight twists and turns of the Alps, Massif Central, Pyrénées, Jura, and Vosges mountain ranges, approximately 20 teams of eight riders compete in more than 20 days’ worth of arduous routes from Nice to Paris until the winners cross the finish line, this year on September 20.
Such a dynamic challenge deserves a trophy unlike any other, and since 2011, that award has been constructed by Škoda Auto with the talented artisans of Czech glassmakers Lasvit. “Each year I try to find something that makes that year specific,” says Škoda Auto’s head of interior design architecture, Peter Olah, who has conceived the Tour de France trophy for the past decade. “We created an icon, but we still want to bring something new each year; if contestants win a number of times, each year they get a trophy that is slightly different.”
Each trophy, made from a single piece of handblown glass, starts with the same towering cylindrical design and is then customized with a unique geometrical pattern that takes a master craftsman approximately three days to cut. (A green glass version is awarded to the green jersey overall points leader.) Each piece weighs just over eight pounds and is nearly two feet tall. “They say you always like the youngest child the most—for the Tour de France trophies I’ve designed, this is true,” Olah tells Galerie. “The newest one is always my favorite until we create another one. I like hearing feedback on designs—women like the complicated and glossy designs more, while men like technical designs.”
This year’s 23-day race culminated on September 20, when Tadej Pogacar crossed the finish line after an arduous 21 days of riding; the first Slovenian to win, he was also the mountains leader and youngest winner. Trophies are awarded to the leaders in overall classification, mountains, youngest rider, and overall points. (Irishman Sam Bennett took home the green trophy.) “I think about the final ceremony as a coronation,” says Olah. “The winner will get the trophy, which will make him even taller.”
The official main sponsor and vehicle partner of the Tour de France for 16 years, Czech automaker Škoda wanted the trophy to be “an ambassador” of the country’s rich glassmaking tradition, hence the long-standing collaboration with Lasvit, who has worked with some of the greatest names in art and design, including the Campana Brothers, Kengo Kuma, and Zaha Hadid. And while the victory is an emotional high for the athletes, the trophy designers, too, share in the exhilaration. “The most emotional experience for me was the final ceremony in 2011, when I designed the trophy for the first time,” Olah says. “Today, it is emotional again, because in the race is my fellow countryman Peter Sagan, who has several trophies at home already. When I create a Tour de France trophy now, I know that maybe I am creating it for another Slovak.”
The finish line is along one of France’s most picturesque boulevards—Paris’s Champs-Elysées—but it wasn’t the setting that had the greatest influence on the trophy’s design. “Actually, the shape of the trophy is entangled with the story of the race,” says Olah. “The handblown artwork is the same diameter on both ends but narrows in the middle. The bottom resembles the beginning of the race, where there are many racers, the middle shows how the field of racers is getting thinner, and the top of the trophy shows the winner himself.”