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Saturday, July 11, 1998 Published at 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK

Dublin welcomes Tour de France

Spectators cheer on competitors in Dublin

The time trial prologue marking the start of the Tour de France for the first time on Irish soil has been won by Chris Boardman.

The international sporting event was held in the streets of central Dublin ahead of the first and second stages of the race, going ahead on Sunday and Monday.

[ image: Chris Boardman has won the prologue stage for the third time in five years]
Chris Boardman has won the prologue stage for the third time in five years
It was the third time in five years that Boardman had captured the prologue stage.

Boardman won the trial with a 54kph ride.

He clocked six minutes and 12 seconds to beat Spain's Abraham Olano by four seconds with world time trial champion Laurent Jalabert in third, five seconds slower over the 5.6km course.

The prologue route began outside Dublin's city centre Trinity College university and finished on the other side of the River Liffey, in O'Connell Street.

[ image: Poor weather failed to deter enthusiasts]
Poor weather failed to deter enthusiasts
Dozens of different areas of Dublin were sealed off to traffic for the occasion, with organisers urging as many people as possible to use public transport for the day.

In anticipation, Dublin has been decked out in the red, white and blue of the French tricolour all week and thousands of spectators lined its streets.

The whole scene was patrolled by more than 700 Irish police - backed by 44 uniformed French counterparts from the Gendarmerie Nationale de France, who advised local officers on handling almost 200 cyclists and their 3,500-strong retinue.

Earlier, Tour de France race director Jean-Marie Leblanc ruled any chance that the Festina cycling team being banned from the race despite the fact that one of their cars had been found to contain over 400 vials of drugs.

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