The academic historians Jean-Luc Boeuf and Yves Léonard say most people in France had little idea of the shape of their country until L'Auto began publishing maps of the race. They wrote:
At the start of the 20th century, the French were still largely ignorant (connaissent encore très mal) of the geography of their country. Maps were rare and little used, even at school. The physical shape of France and its contours remained an unknown for most Frenchmen ... Efforts to interest school children in the image in general and maps in particular were in vain. The book Tour de France par Deux Enfants didn't have a map of France before its 1905 edition, by which time it had sold seven million copies!
By the maps of France [that it published], the Tour de France became at the same time a teacher, in printing a map of the contours of the country – which was rare at least until the Great War – and populist in portraying France as a hexagon, a France not only amputated from 1903 of its "lost provinces" but also its overseas possessions and Corsica, never visited in a century and still missing from maps of the Tour de France.
Eugen Weber, in the foreword to Tour de France: 1903–2003 says:
The Tour contributed more to France than new-model heroes. It put flesh on the bones of values taught in school but seldom internalized: effort, courage, determination, stoic endurance of pain, and even fair play. It familiarized a nation with its geography. It brought life, activity, excitement into small towns where very little happened; it introduced a festive atmosphere wherever it passed; and it acquainted provincial backwaters with spectacular displays previously available only in big cities.