LATEST ACTION AS IT HAPPENS (ALL TIMES BST)
1605: To confirm, David Millar is rewarded for his bravery with the polka dot jersey. And the debate over the origin of Gravesend's name still rages on 606.
What is beyond debate is that this has been a marvellous weekend for Le Tour, for cycling and for British sport. Merci and au revoir.
1539: Out of nowhere comes Robbie McEwen to win the first stage of the Tour de France. That was amazing stuff. He looked out of contention with 5km remaining, but comes through the field to take the glory.
1537: The noise is deafening as they pass the walls of Canterbury before a tiny finishing climb.
1535: Canterbury waits and McEwen is back in contact, but he has about 100 riders to pass to get towards the front. Boonen is still in pole position.
1533: Quick Step are driving the peloton with 6km to go. And Tom Boonen is right up there, sniffing a possible win.
1531: Robbie McEwen is off the pace, which is a big surprise. The Australian loves this sort of sprint finish.
1530: Just 10km to go and the peloton are flying. Hold on to your "chapeaux".
1526: Cavendish has yet to return to the main bunch and may have an injury. A sour note to a great British stage, but there will be other stages for him.
1521: Auge wins the climb and is then sucked in by the peloton. Millar does take second spot, which means he and Auge will be level on five climber's points. That's the good news. But Cavendish has to change bikes. Things go from bad to worse for the Isle of Man rider.
1518: Disaster for Mark Cavendish, who has serious bike problems. If he can't sort them out quickly, he'll be out of contention for the sprint.
1517: Auge hits the bottom of the climb of Farthing Common and is still 30 seconds clear, so it will be up to Millar to fight for second spot. Now's the moment David.
1512: Bichou gives up but Auge stays clear. Auge is now making a bid for that charming polka dot jersey. If he wins the climb (and he is still 30 seconds clear), then Millar will have to spring out of the peloton and take second place. The plot thickens and right at the heart of it is the little Kentish climb of Farthing Common. Splendid stuff.
1508: Millar's team - Saunier Duval - are doing what they can for the Scot. They are forcing the pace at the front of the peloton. And it seems to be working - 22 seconds.
1506: The gap is 28 seconds now. Will the breakaway three get swallowed up before the climb? Will Millar get the jersey? Answers coming right up.
1500: If Bichou takes even one point on climb of Farthing Common, he'll snatch the polka dots from Millar. Bichou remains out front, for now.
1455: Ashford is behind them, so it's just a fourth category climb and a long lead-in to the sprint at Canterbury that remain. Buckle up men (and women) of Kent (see 1120), this is going to be an exciting finish.
1450: But there is some good news for Millar. If the three leaders - now just over a minute clear - are caught before the final climb of the day, the Scot stands a good chance of being the leader of the King of the Mountains competition at the end of the day. And that means a spanking new white and red polka dot jersey. Lucky man.
"I think Millar's main job now will be to play "pilot fish" for Ventoso in the sprint, as he did at the Vuelta last season."
BBC Radio Five Live's Alex Murray via 606
1445: That's it for Millar. He is back in the peloton. "Chapeau" to the Scot, but his early break fails in the end.
1440: Fatigue catches up with Millar and he drops from the lead group. I think we can say that's the end of his brave bid. Bichot, Kuschynski and Auge now lead the field.
1436: "Waiting for it to come through Ashford, watching from work window."
Wayne by text
1432: Millar and co have barely two minutes as a cushion. Meanwhile, there's a nasty spill in the peloton as they pick up the pace. Someone hits a central reservation and a few cyclists come tumbling down. They're all back and riding though.
1427: Talking of trains, some fans have outpaced the peloton by travelling by rail to get more than one look at the race.
"On final leg of three-part train crawl London bridge to Tonbridge to Canterbury. Seems to be quite a few of us! But we keep missing all the freebies. So think yourself lucky for getting a glass wipe! Fantastic two days. Lot better than I imagined."
Simon Mac, Ashford Station, by text
1422: A steam engine pipes the peloton through Tenterden. Nothing like a bit of quaint Englishness to enrich an event - which is hotting up by the way. The gap is down to two minutes and thirty seconds. Time to start shifting hopes from Millar to Cavendish?
1420: "Someone here nearly fell out of a window when a sign saying "Bread and cakes" they were leaning on came away in their hand. Fixing it will dent the extra profits today's crowd has made this bakery."
The BBC's Chris Russell, somewhere in Kent with his family...
1415: At current rate, the peloton will catch the breakaway on the last climb of the day at Farthing Common. That's not music to the ears of Millar fans, but would make for another amazing Tour moment.
1410: Bad news to report. The gap is coming down to Britain's David Millar and the leaders. They are only three and a half minutes clear. I don't think that will be enough of a margin to hold the hungry peloton at bay.
Is time running out for Millar?
1405: Sunday's average speed is 42km per hour, which is 26mph in old money. That's a decent pace, believe me, and explains why the glimpses many of you are getting of the riders are so fleeting.
1402: Millar takes his turn at the front as the leaders pass through Sissinghurst, which is where - from memory - the souvenir hunting redders73 clan is based (see 1105).
1359: OK - final word on Gravesend. It seems it may have got its first charter in 1268, so called because it was the end of the Kentish Borough of Gravesham (thanks to 606 user Pflod2605). That sounds credible to me and the editor. We were wrong - apologies!
Now back to the race.
1353: The second climb is quite tasty and wins it in fine style. I'm afraid Millar was shelled like a pea on that ascent.
1348: We may be getting closer to resolving Gravesend-gate (see 1300). This from Andy M by text:
"There were two plagues - one much earlier hence the confusion. Everyone knows of the great plague as it was documented more."
Oh for a historian in the office. Alas, we are only sports journalists.
1340: "Waiting excitedly at Tenterden. Children have gone feral chasing freebies. Come on david!"
The Walker family by text
1336: As the peloton whistles through my favourite Kent village of Brenchley (see 1248), they slip to six minutes behind the pace of Millar's brave breakaway group.
1333: Just in, a very nice tribute to the city of London:
"Just a note from a diehard Midlander to Ken Livingstone... your boys put on one hell of a show yesterday - seldom seen "the smoke" l ook better! Great crowds (at least 3 times what I expected). If yesterday was anything to go on, bring on 2012, I for one can't wait."
Tim, now on way back north, by text
1328: "Managed to get a large official Tour de France road closed race route sign, so that's my 2007 Tour memento!"
J, Eccles by text
Not sure that's strictly legal, but Ken Livingstone is in a good mood today so you may get away with it.
1322: The breakaway five are doing their best, but I'm just not sure. Stage one of a Tour de France is almost always reserved for the sprinters, who are keen to lay their marker down on the race. Each team has a sprinter and will battle hard to launch him to the front with a chance of victory. If one of the five is to win, they'll have to upset the odds. It's five men against 183.
1317: Millar and his co-leaders speed through Tunbridge Wells, which means I'm a little on the late for this message. Sorry Alex...
"Anticipation is building here in Royal Tunbridge Wells. It's electric!"
Alex by text
But you get the idea, wherever this Tour goes, it is making a big and positive impact.
1313: "I cheered off le Tour lycra lads on Tower Bridge, a quick check with mole news [at Wimbledon], then sofa for Centre Court. Exhausting, life as spectator."
Roxy Rackham via text
1310: The editor in question is now on 606 debating the origin of the name "Gravesend". In other news, Millar and his four new friends are holding their lead at five minutes.
1305: Do let me know if you see any of these characters on the road. They did a fundraising event a couple of days ago dressed up as pink bunnies and I found disturbing photographic evidence on the isporty cycling community.
1300: "Gravesend being so-called because that's where they buried the 1665-66 plague victims... (see 1137) er, no. Pepys refers to 'Gravesend' in his diary in 1660!"
chalkusblankus via 606
Chalkusblankus - can I call you White Chalk? - we'll have to look into this one. I'm blaming my editor for dodgy information. More to follow...
1255: Le Tour 2007 has lost its first rider - Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez of the Agritubel team, who was involved in a crash earlier today. Meanwile, Millar picks up maximum points at the second sprint. Allez David!
1248: "Brenchley hasn't seen crowds like this since Queen's coronation! Well done Millar, but the peloton will catch him and Cavendish for the stage."
David Palmer, Brenchley.
OK, so I admit it. I had to Google Brenchley. Never heard of the place, but I'm assured that it is "a beautiful Kent village", with a name deriving from the Anglo-Saxons. Sophie Rhys-Jones, wife of Prince Edward, hails from here, I'm told.
The leading quintet give back 30 seconds to the peloton. A bad omen?
1240: Le Tour glasses cloth is clearly the must-have item today (see 1213).
"Managed to get a glasses cloth - only because we managed to ask a policeman to pick one up that was lying in the middle of the road!"
Ryan, Gillingham, by text
And on the subject of helpful policemen...
"Vive la difference. Police are actually controlling the crowds here, unlike the more relaxed enforcement in rural France."
Gary, Tonbridge, by text
I second those congratulations for our much-maligned constabulary both in London and Kent. Pip pip!
1237: Millar stocks up with supplies from his team car and has a lengthy chat. Surely not that much to talk about at this stage is there? Just keep turning those pedals David. The lead is holding steady at 05:30.
Millar is determined to taste Tour glory
1234: What is about Surbiton and bike enthusiasts? (see 1213) Another happy Tour de France camper tells his tale:
"Just congratulated Ken [Livingstone] as he checked out of the Trafalgar Hilton before walking home on his own."
Ian, now back home in Surbiton, by text
1225: I am happy to report that Tour de France texters are trouncing their F1 counterparts at Silverstone in numbers and quality. Keep it coming.
"Maidstone is buzzing! The crowds are getting excited. Won't be long now until the riders arrive. Go dave!"
Christy, Maidstone by text
1220: "It was packed in Goudhurst even before the caravan arrived. I am rivalling redders73 for collecting cross channel promotional tat."
Chris R by text
1217: Back to the race, Millar's group is five and half minutes clear. Whatever happens in the rest of the stage, hats off (or "chapeau") to him for taking the initiative. He's really spiced things up for the hordes by the side of the road.
1213: "Well my Tour goodies consist of a t-shirt and a cloth to wipe my glasses with. They think of everything."
Brian, on his way home to Surbiton, by text
You didn't get a spare glasses cloth did you Brian? I could genuinely use one.
1208: Millar is now enjoying the company of Bichot, Kuschynski, Grivko and Auge. He still looks in good shape though and will be looking to work with the quartet to keep the peloton behind. This will not be easy.
1204: Millar's lead over the chasing quartet is coming down, but this looks intentional. After a chat with his team car, he seems to be waiting for allies to make this breakaway stay clear until the finish.
1202: "Waiting in Goudhurst. Getting busy now and anticipation building. Go dave."
1200: Gillingham is putting on a show as Millar zips past. He'll be a "man of Kent" (see 1120) soon. To celebrate that, he wins the first sprint of the day - that's worth six seconds off his overall time.
1155: Millar's lead is around five minutes over the field, which sounds a lot, but the peloton can eat up time in a hurry towards the end of a stage. This is nominally a "flat" stage, but there are a couple of steepish climbs. They'll prove a picnic to this lot, but would scare the life out of a club cyclist.
1145: The four riders chasing down Millar are Bichot, Kuschynski, Grivko and Auge.
1137: Gravesend - so called because it marked the end of the burial ground during The Great Plague of London (1665-6) - is having a much better time of it today. Fans are loving the David Millar show - he is two minutes ahead of four chasing riders and almost six minutes ahead of the peloton.
1135: "Absolutely no freebies down in Medway! Well not for me anyway. Obviously standing on a chicane is a bad idea."
Ryan, Gillingham by text
1127: There are five men ahead of the main bunch now, which is probably good news for Millar. If he can work with them, his chances of staying clear will probably improve.
1125: "What really impresses me is the adaptablity of all the riders. Not one complaint from them about having to ride on the wrong side of the road today then having to switch back tomorrow. What athletes!"
Reggie via 606
1120: Debate has been raging in our office (sad isn't it?) about the difference between a "Kentish man" and a "man of Kent". Well, I can clarify. Those living on the London side (west) of the Medway are "Kentish men" and those on the Canterbury side (east) are "men of Kent". Simple. I think.
So for now, all of our riders are "Kentish men".
1112: David Millar launches the first major attack of the day and the crowds are loving this. A Briton leads Le Tour, for now...
1105: As the attacks come thick and fast at the front of the peloton, I have an update on the whereabouts of redders73 (see 1010).
"I'll be just outside Sissinghurst with the kids and they are hungry for more Tour goodies."
Redders72 via text
You have been warned. Steer well clear if your stationary cupboard needs stocking with Tour de France pens. And I still want to hear about your loot so get in touch by texting 81111 or via my 606 page.
1100: A fond farewell from London to the Tour as stage one finally gets under way. The riders are racing for real now and are in Kent bound for Canterbury.
Le Tour leaves London and enters Kent
"The Marseillaise being played on Tower Bridge? Brings a tear to my eye. All the Brits are down the front, although I've not spotted Charlie W or Brad. Cav, Millar, Geraint I can see. Guards in busbies, fans in yellow. What a spectacle. Chapeau to Ken for bringing it to London and to all those involved in organising it. I've yet to meet anyone of a reasonable mind who isn't impressed."
Alex - Five Live via 606
1055: Speaking about the occasional commuter. Those who were reading yesterday may recall that my 7km commute to work took me 18 minutes. Well, inspired by the heroics of the prologue, I really dug in this morning and clocked an astonishing 16 minutes and 55 seconds. Just call me Alex "Cancellara" Trickett.
1050: Ken Livingstone officially starts the riders from Tower Bridge. But, wait for it, this is still not the proper race start. That will happen down the road in Greenwich in 15 minutes or so. If it were me, I'd be mighty annoyed. All that cycling and the 200km stage has not even started. Perhaps that's what sets a Tour rider apart from an occasional commuter.
1043: Surely, one of the great sights in Tour history as the peloton (translates from French as herd) pedals over the Tower Bridge. French icon meets British icon and the riders pause midway for a glorious photo opportunity with Mayor of London Ken Livingstone as British guards play The Marseillaise followed by the British anthem. Tremendous scenes!
1038: Fabian Cancellara is proudly sporting the yellow jersey - and how he deserves it after tearing apart the field in Saturday's prologue. To win by 13 seconds over just 7.9km is quite extraordinary.
1032: Just past the London Eye - full marks to anyone who managed to coincide their trip to that particular London landmark with the Tour passing.
1025: The pre-start begins. Riders are approaching Tower Bridge at a leisurely pace. Remember, the actual start is not until Greenwich. This is just for show. And what a show - just like yesterday, the people of London are lapping this up.
1010: This is more like it. I was disappointed by your chat about Tour de France freebies yesterday. But perhaps that's because a certain 606 user called redders73 snaffled the lot. This just in:
"Spent six hours by the Serpentine and when the big guns started to come by it was all worth it. Kids loved it and want racers for birthdays. Needed a suitcase for the hats, shirts, pens and banners we came home with. Now sitting here with coffee planning location for stage one."
redders73 via 606
My advice, steer well clear of this character if you want free goodies from the "caravane" today. redders73 - any chance of tipping us off - where will you be standing?
0948: A quick "merci" to Le Tour for restoring sunny skies to England. It's an absolute beauty outside after weeks of grey, damp drizzle. Chaps, how about cancelling that Eurostar and riding around our Island until September?
0930: Bonjour and welcome back to the Tour de France in London. Yesterday was a huge success and I expect today to be every bit as good. For those of you thinking of getting out there to watch the event, here are some rough timings for when the race will be passing through your town:
1025: London Bridge
1510: Farthing Common
1537: Canterbury (finish)
Remember though, these timings are approximate and the tour "caravane" will arrive up to two hours in advance. So get there early and soak up the special atmosphere.