Tour de France start gets royal treatment in Yorkshire

Sat Jul 5, 2014 10:36am EDT
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By Martyn Herman

HARROGATE England (Reuters) - The 101st Tour de France rolled out of Leeds for the start of the first stage on Saturday with hundreds of thousands of fans lining the route across the Yorkshire Dales to Harrogate.

With Tour fever gripping Yorkshire and the sun out for the 190.5-km opener, Team Sky's defending champion Chris Froome was roared off as the cream of world cycling left Leeds city center before making their way to the official start at Harewood House.

The Red Arrows aerobatic jets trailed white, red and blue smoke as the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry performed the ceremonial launch cutting of the tape for the 21-stage, 3,664-km race that will spend three days in Britain before working its way down eastern France to the Alps.

An immediate break saw two Frenchmen, Benoit Jarrier (Bretagne Seche Environnement) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) join veteran German Jens Voigt (Trek) in a three-man break that established a three-minute lead by the 35-km mark.

Huge crowds lined the roads through picturesque market towns and rolling country lanes flanked by traditional stone walls.

The main contenders for the race, Britain's Froome, Alberto Contador of Spain and Italian Vincenzo Nibali were all comfortably tucked into the pack.

With the first five days of this year's Tour expected to provide some difficult challenges for the field, Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford said Saturday's stage, which includes three categorised climbs, needed careful attention.

"Lose no time, I think that sums up the objective," he told reporters at start in Leeds. That's the aim of the day."   Continued...

A man dressed in Sherlock Holmes attends the start of the first 190.5 km stage of  the Tour de France cycling race from Leeds to Harrogate, July 5, 2014.       REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier