101st Tour de France kicks off in England
Stage 1 of the three-week race takes cyclists through the English countryside
The 198 competitors in the 101st Tour de France have started their gruelling three-week ride through four countries before ending the world's greatest cycling race in Paris on July 27.
Saturday's 190.5-kilometre Stage 1 takes the pack on a rolling loop along the bucolic English countryside from Leeds to Harrogate — a layout that could be tailor-made for a sprinter to win.
Many enthusiastic Union Jack-waving fans on the course are hoping that Britain's Mark Cavendish, one of the world's great sprinters, will win this first of three tour legs in England before the race enters France. It would be Cavendish's first ever yellow jersey.
The Duchess of Cambridge was expected to bestow the first race leader's yellow jersey at the day's awards ceremony. Watched by her husband Prince William and his brother Prince Harry, Kate cut the race ribbon at the start of the first leg which also featured a flyover by aeronautical display team the Red Arrows.Overall race favourites are defending champion Chris Froome, a 29-year-old Kenyan-born Briton who leads Team Sky, and two-time champ Alberto Contador.
In all, the riders will cover 3,664 kilometres of roads in England, France, Belgium and Spain.