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Tour de France 2008

Alejandro Valverde has won the opening stage of the 2008 Tour de France.

The Spanish champion timed his climb up the Côte de Cadoual to perfection as he picked off Kim Kirchen with 200m to go.

An early breakaway saw eight riders jump out and open up a lead of over eight minutes but they were caught seven kilometres from home.

Philippe Gilbert finished second ahead of Jerome Pineau and Kirchen while Britain's David Millar was 11th and Mark Cavendish two minutes back.

To get involved use 606 or text us your views & comments on 81111 - please put cycling before your message. (Not all contributions can be used)

By Peter Scrivener

1620: That's it from me for today, but I'll be back for some more Tour action tomorrow as we journey from Auray to Saint-Brieuc.

Thanks for your company and all your comments, I'm off to enjoy a nice crisp chablis.

1615: A great finish for Millar who comes home 11th in the peloton while Cavendish is given 120th place and a time two minutes behind Valverde with Froome 174th, two further seconds adrift.

1610: So Valverde takes the first yellow jersey of the 2008 Tour ahead of Philippe Gilbert, Jerome Pineau, Kirchen and Riccardo Ricco.

1605: And it's a massive slog up the hill to the finish, Stefan Schumacher takes the intital lead, but he is soon caught by Kirchen with about 300 yards to go.

But his hopes are dashed by Spanish champion Alejandro Valverde who comes past with 200m to go to claim victory.

1602: Everbody safely over the bridge that 5 Live's Phil Sheehan was worried about when he rode the finish this morning.

1600: Lotto up front suggesting Robbie McEwen could be being lined up for the finish; the Team Colombia boys are also in evidence which could be good news for Cavendish or Kirchen as suggested by SportingNonsense on 606 earlier in the day. Who's your money on with 3km to go?

1556: And it's all over for the local Breton boy and De La Fuente, who have spent about 185km out in front - they look over their shoulders to see the peloton haring down on their back wheels and with a shake of the hands, they drop either side of the peloton.

1555: Mauricio Soler has taken a tumble on the narrow roads, but two his team-mates have hung around to help bring him back up to the peloton.

1547: The peloton looks like a coiled snake getting ready to pounce. The gap is down to 36 seconds with 15km to go and it's a question of when, not if, the leaders will be caught.

1544: It's quite a tough end as the stage finishes at the top of the Côte de Cadoual - locally known as the Breton Alpe d'Huez.

1540: Jegou and De La Fuente are chatting away up front, presumably discussing tactics, rather than what they'll be having for tea when they arrive in Plumelec - they have an 88-second advantage with 19km remaining.

1537: Another crash - oldest rider in the race Stéphane Goubert is one of the casualties, but is okay to continue.

Surely, at 38, Goubert is too old to ride in the Tour is the query on 5 Live.

"There's no way the leaders are going to stay out with the run-in to the finish today."
MagpieMatt on 606

1533: The peloton has caught the six escapees with around 23km to go - Jegou and De La Fuente are working hard to maintain their 90-second advantage, but surely it's just a matter of time before they are caught.

1530: Jegou and De La Fuente are pushing on and have moved 48 seconds ahead of their former fellow escapees, but the peloton is within striking distance of the six at under a minute behind.

1520: It looks like the leaders are resigned to being caught as the lead drops below 90 seconds, but hang on, two have made a break.

Local rider Jegou and resident aggressive rider De La Fuente have made a strike for home with 35km to go - will they hang on?

Predictions time - where is the winner going to come from, the leaders or the peloton?

1515: Perez and Jegou came second and third in the sprint and by the time the peloton reach that point, they have closed to just over two minutes.

"I still have two giant green Credit Agricole hands (see 1450) from the day Lance Armstrong won his 5th Tour in Paris and equalled the record."
mwmonk on 606

1510: Final intermediate sprint of the day sees Lequatre win his third of the day to amass a maximum 18 points.

1508: Liquigas is pushing at the front of the peloton and the escapees are being reeled in - 2 mins 35 secs with 41.5km to go.

1500: De La Fuenta takes the final climb maximum from Schroder and Voeckler.

That means Voeckler and Schroder will end the day tied on eight points and the polka dot jersey for the King of the Mountains will go to the rider who crosses the line first, unless of course he finishes first, in which case the yellow jersey takes precedence.

45km remaining and lead down to three minutes.

1458: There's a crash, and one of the pre-race favourites Frank Schleck is down along with Fabian Wegmann, Jimmy Casper, Yaroslav Popovych and Sylvain Chavanel. Thankfully it's not too serious and all riders are back up and moving quickly.

"Bagpipes have not been banned from Princes St, only unlicensed players. Rest assured you can still hear the 'soond o' the pipes' opposite the Waverley train station my good man!"
DavidAttenborough on 606

1452: The leaders are approaching the final points climb of the day. Don't forget Voeckler, who won in Plumelec at the end of May, is amongst the leaders and has currently amassed the most climbing points so far.

1450: 5 Live reports that the Caravane has arrived at the finish in Plumelec and a giant croissant has just gone by - what was the best bit of tat you picked up off the caravane last year when the Tour came through London and south-east England?

1447: For all those who think sprinter Cavendish may bow out when the going gets tough in the mountains, think again.

He's just been on 5 Live saying that it his intention to reach Paris and that it would have been unfair to the Tour, sponsors and other potential riders if he pulled out after a few days.

The obvious question is, do you believe him?

1445: We're down to the last 60km - the Brest eight are still out, but their lead is being chipped away by the peloton - down to 3 mins 30 secs now.

"Bagpipes have been banned from the centre of Edinburgh (see 1415) as locals were complaining. Unbelievable but true. Personnaly as a Scot living abroad I want to hear them anywhere."
santista02 on 606

1435: Phil Sheehan has just been in touch about Froome - he is on a GB licence for convenience sake, basically I've been told that it's because the Kenyan cycling federation isn't the best organised.

Radio coverage from 5 Live, for UK listeners only I'm afraid, has started via the link on the right.

1425: The leaders have been in front for nearly 115km and their lead, which peaked at over eight minutes, is now half that.

1420: Official word from the Cofidis team is that Duclos-Lasalle has a fractured wrist - he missed a muset and it got caught up in his bike and caused him to fall - a sad way to end his first Tour.

1415: Now, I don't know where you stand on bagpipes - I quite like them, but only in the right setting, such as on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh on a warm summer's day. Not sure I'd want them being blasted in my earhole as I raced by in the peloton of the Tour de France. Even the bloke's family seemed a little embarrassed by his wailing.

1405: Duclos-Lasalle has to be gutted - that's got to be one of the earliest retirements ever? Anyone got any facts on that one? Text number is above and link to 606 to let me know.

Leaders still pushing on out in front, but their advantage is down to 4 mins 20 secs.

1357: Duclos-Lasalle went down in the feedzone and Van Summeren is now receiving treatment on his bleeding leg.

1355: We have our first retirement of the race. Hervé Duclos-Lasalle looks in a bit of pain - he's got a bit of a graze on his forehead, but his left-hand seems to be causing him more bother - he's by the roadside getting it strapped and bandaged - it all looked a little innocuous - it was a straight section of road, the peloton weren't particularly heavily bunched - he was just clipped, possibly by Johan Van Summeren who has blood streaming down the back of his right leg as he continues, seemingly oblivious to it all.

1345: The riders leave the Finistere department of Brittany for Morbihan with the peloton having closed to 4 mins 40 secs.

Phil Sheehan is on 606 describing the finish in Plumelec which he rode this morning - he reckons riders need to be in the top 20 as there's a major bottleneck in Cadoudal.

1339: And it looks as though that brief foray may have hurt the quartet as only Jegou picks up any points, bit it is only one as Lequatre takes his second maximum ahead of Auge.

1337: Jegou, Arrieta, Voeckler and Schroeder briefly open up a gap on the other four in the breakaway (Auge, De La Fuente, Perez and Lequatre), but their stay out front is brief as the second intermediate sprint approaches.

1334: Jegou, Voeckler, Schroeder in that order pick up the points and 85.5km have been completed in the opening couple of hours - that's just shy of 43km an hour if my maths is right.

1331: Another points climb, another sprint for the points amid the usual throng of fans who line the hills - not quite as many there as you'd expect to see in the Alps and Pyrennes later in the race, but they are every bit as enthusiastic with the familiar black and white Breton flag fluttering from countless caravans.

Points scorers to follow when I've worked out who summited first.

1325: Looks like it's a lovely afternoon in Brittany as the riders weave their way through the Finistere countryside and past the rather grand-looking Chateau de Trevarez which was built in the late 19th century by James de Kerjégu.

And to mark the year of the potato, which apparantly 2008 is, the Chateau has a history of the humble spud exhibition should you be in the vicinity this summer.

Lead is down to 5'00".

"Having looked around the Barlworld website, it seems that Froome's role (see 1310) is to help Soler as much as possible on the climbs, suggesting that he could be a decent climber."
SportingNonsene on 606 (Thanks for the info and I guess we shall see in a few days.)

1315: If you want some live audio commentary to go with this text version, I'm afraid you'll have to wait about another 75 minutes - 5 Live will be providing coverage from 1430 BST - and if you click here, you can find out the plans for the rest of the Tour.

1310: Just been pointed out on 606 that there are, of course, more than two British riders in the Tour this year - the focus has been on Cavendish and Millar, but Barloworld's Chris Froome is also among the 180 starters.

Froome is Kenyan by birth but has recently gained British citizenship on the back of his grandparents.

He is one of 43 riders making their debuts this year.

Leaders still 5 mins 30 secs up the road.

1300: First intermediate sprint sees Lequatre claim the maximum six points from Jegou and Perez - remember though, no time bonuses this year.

The peloton continues to close the gap which is now down to around 5 mins 30 secs.

"Talking to Sean Yates last week he was of the opinion that teams will not want to let a group stay out as the winner could then be in yellow for a good few days.

"I'd have thought a team like High Road will want to get Cav in amongst it this week as they don't really have anyone who could contend for the GC later in the Tour."
BBC Sport's Paul Redgrove on 606

1250: Voeckler was followed over cote de Kerivarc'h by Schroeder, who picks up two points and Lequatre who gets one.

1245: No mention of any of the race favourites yet who are all safely tucked up in the peloton with the other 172 riders.

1240: The leading octet are up and over the second points climb of the day - Voeckler takes it but Auge, who suffered a puncture a few kilometres back and climbed well to get back in contention, didn't leave enough in the tank for the final push and goes over last of his group.

The peloton continues to close with the striking orange of Rabobank rider Joost Posthuma leading the charge.

1235: De La Fuente was third over the col de Ty-Jopic at the 29.5km mark and picked up the final mountain point.

And the peloton have decided enough is enough and the lead, which had stretched to 8 mins 15 secs" at one point has been whittled back to just under eight minutes.

1230: Doing a bit of research in the lead-up to today's opening, I came across a gem of a website detailing some of the weird and wonderful nicknames that riders are given.

None of this adding a 'y' to the end of a name or just shortening it a bit as the footballers do.

Laurent Fignon was known as "Le professeur" on account of his glasses and a rather studious demeanour, Bernard Hinault was "le Blaireau" (the badger) and Laurent Jalabert was "El Yaya" in Spain; "Jaja" everywhere else and occassionally "the Panda" on account of his bushy eyebrows.

Only seems to deal with the older riders though - let me know your favourites and the reasons behind them either on the text number above, or on 606.

1220: The peloton are starting to work together with Credit Agricole and Liquigas taking charge, but the octet over the hill are now eight minutes ahead.

"It will be Cavendish's team-mate Kim Kirchen who wins today to take the yellow jersey."
SportingNonsense on 606

"I don't think the break will be allowed to stay away with yellow at stake, my tip with the uphill finish is Mark Cavendish's best mate: Pippo Pozatto."
igmeister on 606

1210: The leaders are over the summit of the first category climb of the Tour and Bjorn Schroeder picks up the first points after outsprinting Voeckler - the lead is now well over six minutes.

1206: While I try and source some more coverage, can I direct you to the other live commentary of the day to keep an eye on? Piers is at Wimbledon and will guide you through the ladies singles final between the Williams sisters.

1203: Slight problem with pictures, as the French TV channel has gone off for a news break - what I can tell you is that the leading pack have opened up a lead of nearly five minutes as they approach the foot of the first of four category four climbs.

1152: I've just heard the first mention of Britain's best hope for a stage win, Mark Cavendish (or could David Millar do the business?), although quite what else was said, I'm afraid I'm not sure as the commentary is in French at the moment! Probably not a day for him, but which stage do you think he will target to win?

1150: The lead is up over two minutes thanks mainly to the efforts of David De La Fuente, who has been responsible for pushing the pace - he won the most aggressive rider on the Tour a couple of years ago, so probably no huge surprise he's keen to get on with it.

For me CSC look like the strongest team, but I can't see Sastre winning it; I'd like to say Menchov but I can't see where he's going to win the time; Evans fairly similair, though for me he's the favourite.
Lowlandbrit on 606

1142: The peloton seems content to let the breakaway go and they are already 65 seconds adrift.

1139: And if you're looking for omens - Voeckler triumphed in the 18th Grand Prix de Plumelec-Morbihan at the end of May, just as he did in 2004, before going on to hold the yellow jersey for 10 days on the Tour.

1136: And first breakaway of the day - eight riders involved, one of whom is home favourite Thomas Voeckler.

The other seven are: Lilian Jegou (FDJ), Stephane Auge (COF), David De La Fuente (SDV), Ruben Perez (EUS), Arrieta (ALM), Lequatre (AGR), Bjorn Schroeder (MRM).

"I think that Soler, if he can stay in touch with the leaders, can do some damage once we get to the Alps. Otherwise, I think Ricco can be dangerous. I just hope Evans does't bore his way to the yellow jersey."
timmy_went_missing on 606

1130: And we are off - signalled by an official at the back of a red car waving a white flag with the word Depart on it.

Not that you would really notice as the riders appear to be travelling at exactly the same speed as they were through Brest. Still, you can't blame them, this is the fifth longest stage of the race and there's a good four-and-a-half hours of riding to go.

1125: It is the third time the race has begun in Brest, which is situated about as far west as you can go in France.

And it is the 28th time le Tour has visited the Breton town, but it is the first time since 1974 when a certain Eddy Merckx won his fifth and final yellow jersey.

1110: And the pre-race start is underway as the riders parade through the streets of Brest - the crowds are enormous, standing several deep in places.

And some of them will have been there for a couple of hours or more as the famed caravane, that goes ahead of the race and distributes the freebies left the town around 0945 BST.

Anybody out there reading this who has been the recipient of anything decent this morning?

1100: Bonjour mes amis, et bienvenue au Tour de France 2008!

Le Grand Depart of what promises to be one of the most open races in years is just 30 minutes away.

And it's a humdinger of an opening stage.

The prologue has been ditched for the first time since 1967 and the riders face a 197.5km meander through the Breton countryside, with four fourth category climbs between Brest and Plumelec.

I'll be your host for the next five hours or so and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the opening stage.

For starters, let's have early predictions for who is going to take the opening stage. You can get in touch via 606 or text - details at the top of the page.

Enjoy the race.

see also
Tour de France photos
05 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Tour de France 2008 preview
02 Jul 08 |  Cycling
Cycling on the BBC
30 Jun 08 |  Cycling

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