Saturday 20 December 2014

Tour de France receives Royal send-off

Published 05/07/2014 | 15:53

The Duchess of Cambridge talks to World Champion cyclist Rui Costa at the start of the 2014 Tour de France.
The Duchess of Cambridge talks to World Champion cyclist Rui Costa at the start of the 2014 Tour de France.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend the Grand Depart at Harewood House, at the start of the 2014 Tour de France.
The of Cambridge talks to cyclist Mark Cavendish at the start of the 2014 Tour de France
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend the Grand Depart at Harewood House, at the start of the 2014 Tour de France.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend the Grand Depart at Harewood House, at the start of the 2014 Tour de France.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry gave the opening stage of the 101st Tour de France a royal send-off from Harewood House on Saturday morning.

The peloton rode north out of Leeds in a neutralised procession before lining up once again for the official start of the stage to Harrogate.

Saturday's 190.5km stage will take the riders through the Yorkshire Dales before they loop back and head south into Harrogate, where Mark Cavendish was hoping to take the leader's yellow jersey for the first time in his career - in his mother's home town.

Omega Pharma-QuickStep sprinter Cavendish was one of four British riders to take the start, along with defending champion Chris Froome and his Team Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas, and Orica GreenEdge's Simon Yates.

Froome and Cavendish had led the pack north out of Leeds along roads lined with thousands of fans as the people of Yorkshire came out to show their support for the race.

It was the second time cycling's biggest race has begun in Britain, following the 2007 Grand Depart in London, and the fourth time in total that stages have been held in the country.

Plymouth hosted a single stage in 1974 and two stages took place in the south of England in 1994.

On Sunday, stage two will see the riders take on some of Yorkshire's most famous climbs as they go from York to Sheffield via the High Peak, before Monday's stage from Cambridge to London sets them on their way back to France.

Almost as soon as the peloton had left the grounds of Harewood House, the oldest man in the race, 42-year-old Jens Voigt (Trek Factory), launched an attack off the front, joined by Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne-Seche Environnemen).

They soon built up a lead of more than three minutes as the route went north through Ilkley and Skipton, where thousands more fans lined the roads.

Jarrier led the breakaway trio over the top of the Tour's first categorised climb, the category four Cote de Cray, with their lead over the peloton still hovering just above three minutes.

Voigts then came back to the front, leading the trio through the intermediate sprint, and the veteran launched a solo attack to be the first over the top of Buttertubs, the longest and most famous climb of the day.

The breakaway's advantage was now a little over four minutes, with the peloton slowed on the climb by a couple of minor crashes.

The peloton began to split on the climb, and Cavendish was in the second group which had lost a minute on the main pack as they approached the third climb, the Cote de Grinton Moor, with a little under 70 kilometres to go to the finish.

Also in the second group was Joaquim Rodriguez, third overall in last year's Tour.

But the peloton had regrouped by the time Voigt led the way over the top of the climb, now less than a minute ahead, ensuring he would take the King of the Mountains jersey after the opening stage.

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