TOUR DE FRANCE (5-27 July)
BBC coverage: Daily text commentary, reports and gallery on the BBC Sport website and live audio commentary from BBC Radio 5 Live
Valverde is one of the favourites to win the Tour de France
Spain's Alejandro Valverde won the opening stage of the Tour de France to claim the coveted yellow jersey.
The Caisse d'Epargne rider caught Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen to finish ahead of Belgium's Philippe Gilbert, with Jerome Pineau of France in third.
Valverde, 28, is one of the favourites to win the Tour, along with Australian Cadel Evans, who finished sixth.
Britain's David Millar came home in 11th while Mark Cavendish finished two minutes back in 120th place.
Local boy Lilian Jegou and Spaniard David De La Fuente spent 185km of the 197.5km race from Brest to Pulmelac in front but were caught by the peloton with 7km remaining.
With 400m to go Kirchen made a dash to the line and was ahead of the Spaniard after the final bend, but in a sprint finish he could not hold off the impressive Valverde, who won in 4 hours 36 seconds at an average speed of 42.92km/h.
I have my eyes on the podium in Paris, but it's important to have a stage win and the yellow jersey
Kirchen, who rides for Team Columbia, then had to make do with fourth place as he was passed before the line by Francaise des Jeux's Gilbert and Pineau of Bouygues Telecom.
Valverde, who finished sixth in last year's Tour, said his ultimate aim was to wear the yellow jersey at the end of the 21 stages.
"It's an important victory for me. I'm very proud," he said after his victory, which was his ninth win of the season.
"Of course I have my eyes on the podium in Paris, but it's important to win a stage and have the yellow jersey."
In the absence of some of the sport's biggest names, this promises to be one of the most open Tours in its 95-year history.
Last year's winner Alberto Contador is not defending his title after joining Team Astana, who were banned from competing for their involvement, albeit under different management, in a number of positive drug tests.
Belgian sprint specialist Tom Boonen, American Floyd Landis, Michael Rasmussen, Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich are all missing having besmirched the sport in recent years.
That means the only Tour winner among the 180 riders who started the race is the Spaniard Oscar Pereiro, who was named the 2006 winner after Landis tested positive for testosterone.
In a blow to race favourite Evans' hopes of winning the yellow jersey, team-mate Yaroslav Popovych was involved in a crash 60km from the end.
Popovych got back on his bike but Evans was relying on the Ukrainian to set a punishing pace on the climbs.
Cofidis team's Herve Duclos-Lassalle became the first rider to pull out of the race after he fractured his wrist in a crash.
Frenchman Thomas Voeckler picked up the polka dot jersey for the race's best climber, while Gilbert will wear the green jersey because Valverde is in yellow.
The second stage moves from Auray to Saint-Brieuc on Sunday.
Results (after stage one of 21):
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Caisse d'Epargne) 4:36:07
2. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Francaise des Jeux) + 1 sec
3. Jerome Pineau (Fra/Bouygues Telecom) + 1 sec
4. Kim Kirchen (Lux/Team Columbia) + 1 sec
5. Riccardo Ricco (Ita/Saunier Duval-Scott) + 1 sec
6. Cadel Evans (Aus/Silence-Lotto) + 1 sec
7. Frank Schleck (Lux/Team CSC Saxo Bank) + 1 sec
8. Filippo Pozzato (Ita/Liquigas) + 1 sec
9. Oscar Freire (Spa/Rabobank) + 1 sec
10. Oscar Pereiro (Spa/Caisse d'Epargne) + 1 sec
11. David Millar (Gbr/Garmin Chipotle) + 1 sec
120. Mark Cavendish (Gbr/Team Columbia) + 2 min
1. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/GCE) - 35 pts
2. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/FDJ) - 30
3. Jerome Pineau (FRA/BTL) - 26
4. Kim Kirchen (LUX/COL) - 24
5. Riccardo Ricco (ITA/SDV) - 22
6. Cadel Evans (AUS/SIL) - 20
7. Frank Schleck (LUX/CSC) - 19
8. Geoffroy Lequatre (FRA/AGR) - 18
9. Filippo Pozzato (ITA/LIQ) - 18
10. Oscar Freire (ESP/RAB) - 17
King of Mountains:
1. Thomas Voeckler (FRA/BTL) - 8 pts
2. Bjoern Schroeder (GER/MRM) - 8
3. David De La Fuente (ESP/SDV) - 4
4. Lilian Jegou (FRA/FDJ) - 3
5. Geoffroy Lequatre (FRA/AGR) - 1