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Page last updated at 10:43 GMT, Saturday, 2 July 2011 11:43 UK

2011 Tour de France stage 1 as it happened

Stage 1 - Passage du Gois to Mont des Alouettes, 191.5km


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By Peter Scrivener

1700: Thanks for all your texts and tweets. It's been a terrific opening to the 2011 Tour de France. I'll be back around 1300 BST tomorrow to take you through the team time trial and the very real possibility of getting a Brit in yellow. It promises to be an exciting day. I take it you'll be joining me? In the meantime, here's the report on Gilbert's victory.

1655: That's got to better than any prologue stage to start the Tour? And the fun continues tomorrow with the team time trial. Team Sky are expected to be strong on the 23km course and with Geraint Thomas just six seconds off the lead, what price the Welshman being in yellow come this time tomorrow afternoon?

1648: Let's clear up the finishing places. Britain's David Millar came home 16th in the group with Geraint Thomas who were timed at six seconds behind winner Gilbert. Contador did finish 80 seconds down after being caught up in that crash about 8km from the finish. The good news for him is that Andy Schleck was also delayed. Bradley Wiggins was also involved and he finished a further nine seconds behind. No time for Cavendish yet, or Ben Swift.

1645: That finish had a bit of everything with attacks, crashes, superb sprinting and it may take some time to sort out. What we do know is that Thor Hushovd finished third and Britain's Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas came in sixth. Defending champion Alberto Contador has lost around 80 seconds.

1642: Oh my word - what an incredible finish and Omega Pharma riders still on the climb are celebrating the victory of their team-mate Gilbert. The Belgian looked like he had been left by the burst of Swiss champion Cancellara but he responded magnificently to sweep back into the lead and hold of the fast-finishing Cadel Evans.


1640: Crikey, what's happening today? And we're on the final climb. Gilbert looking comfortable in second at them oment. But here comes Vinokourov and Voeckler. And Fabian Cancellara has gone off with Gilbert in pursuit. Madness.

1637: Philippe Gilbert and Thor Hushovd are up near the front and have team-mates to help them. Thomas Voeckler of Europcar lurking - who said they wouldn't win. And another crash at the 2km barrier.

1635: We've got a little climb to come don't forget. RadioShack pushing along the pace. Contador gritting his teeth but we're inside the final 3km and he's losing time today.

1633: It appears as though Alberto Contador was caught up in the melee and he's 32 seconds adrift of the leaders with 4km remaining.

1631: Not only did many riders hit the deck, the vast majority were hampered and had to scramble through a ditch to get by. That's left us with a small bunch out front and the attacks are starting with 6km to go.

1629: Inside the final 10km and there's been another pile up. An Astana rider has collided with a spectator who was looking the wrong way. It must be stressed that the spectator was not actually in the road, but the Astana rider clipped them and then took out at least two-dozen riders. Nobody hurt but that has split the pack.

1628: The pace has quickened appreciably and the formidable sight of the HTC Highroad team are coming to the fore. That's Mark Cavendish's team remember, although they may be looking to deliver Goss to the line. Quick sight of Brad Wiggins and Geraint Thomas trying to keep out of trouble near the front of the pack.

starfightpilot on Twitter: "Well done to the three who led from the front, lovely to see them shaking hands as they are caught. Hope to see them again!"

1621: It's as we were then. Just 16km to go. Europcar riders on the front - they are determined to make an impression on their home stage. Can't see them producing a winner though.

1618: And the escapees have been caught. The three riders sit up, shake hands and are swallowed up by the peloton.

Malayka on Twitter: "This is beginning to look like a bunch finish, and Hushovd will like the uphill sprint "

1616: A couple of glances over the shoulder and Roy, Quemeneur and Estra know their little adventure is coming to a close. They have led for 171km or so, having jumped out of the peloton in the opening couple of metres of the stage. They go under the 20km to go arch with an 11-second lead.

1614: The lady on the back of the yellow bike has barely time to rub out her chalking before having to scratch another number on to the slate. No sooner has she shown the leaders they are down to 30 seconds, than the lead drops to 22. The peloton have the leaders in their sights.

BBC Radio 5 Live
1610: BBC 5 live commentator Graham Jones: "It's going to be tough for teams to marshall in the last couple of kilometres. I think there could be lots of little attacks."

1607: The chalkboard of doom tells the trio out front that they are only 45 seconds clear. And even as I type that, it's down by another 10 seconds. 26km to go.

1605: Nearly a spill for Jens Voigt. The 39-year-old German almost loses balance as he stuffs three drinks bottles into his back pocket, two more down the back of his jersey, one up the front, and then there's a seventh, down the back of his jersey. And off he pedals, looking like a mis-shapen tortoise.

leguape on Twitter: "At last, first sighting of carrot getting grated on the tarmac! Took a bit of time but we got there at last" That would be Euskaltel rider Perez by the way

1600: The lead is at 68 seconds but there should be plenty of energy left in the peloton who have had a fairly steady opening day to the Tour.

1557: World champion Thor Hushovd having to work a little harder than he would probably like with 35km to go - he had a brief stop to answer a call of nature and the Garmin rider is being helped back to the peloton by team-mate David Zabriskie.

1555: Jurgen van de Walle - remember him? The Omega Pharma rider who was chewing tarmac a little earlier today, is at the front of the chasing bunch, his shoulder poking through his ripped jersey. He looks battered and bruised already and we're only on day one.

1552: The peloton really starting to put the hammer down and the leaders are suddenly just 97 seconds clear. Roy is back on the front of the trio of escapees but they have just been shown the chalkboard and they must surely know their time is up.

1545: A real mix at the front of the peloton with Sky, BMC, Omega Pharma, Garmin all showing. I don't know about you but I'm massively looking forward to this finish. There's 25km or so of rolling hills with a climb of 150m or so up to Saint-Michel Mont-Mercure before a downhill section and then a fourth category climb to the finish in Les Herbiers.

1540: Quick snippet from Mark Cavendish, talking on 5 live sports extra: "I am going for the green jersey and I went for the green jersey in the last two years." Glad that's cleared up then. Leaders starting to toil at the front, Jeremy Roy's shoulders starting to roll a bit - sure sign of fatigue.

leguape on Twitter: "50km to go, BRING OUT THE GRABSCH! *pounding teutonic drums*"

1532: We are inside the final 50km of racing for the opening stage and Garmin and Omega Pharma continuing to push the pace along and the leaders are within three minutes.

1530: Ready for another Tour fact? Thought so. According to Infostrada Sports, with an average age of 33 years and 160 days today, RadioShack is the oldest team in Tour de France history in 83 years. Ile-de-France hold the record with an average of 33 years and 351 days in 1928.

1525: Another spill and we've got a couple of riders in the ditch - again it's nothing serious, a new back wheel or two and off they go.

1523: Getting to the business end of the day and French duo Jeremy Roy (FDJ) and Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) and Dutchman Lieuwe Estra (Vacansoleil) are making their bid for home - just the 55km to go. Don't think they will get there though. Who are you backing to come from the bunch and take the stage win?

1519: Sunflower alert - first sighting of the big-headed flowers. Tremendous. Back on the road and the peloton is starting to wind in the leaders. The breakaway is under four minutes and Omega and Garmin riders tapping out the rhythm at the front of the bunch

1516: Here's 5 live commentator Graham Jones' thoughts on Wiggins' chances: "He might struggle to emulate what he did two years ago and finish fourth. I think he'll be somewhere between fifth and 10th."

1514: Here's Bradley Wiggins, talking on 5 live: "My self-belief is overwhelming at the moment. It's really exciting and a world apart from last year. The coaching team have had a plan about getting the form for July - winning the Dauphene was good but I quickly put that in the drawer. There's more to come."

1510: The front three are working hard to maintain their advantage, which currently stands at just under five minutes. The peloton not really interested in chasing them down. Yet. Still 65km to go - plenty of time to reel them in.

1502: Millar candidly talking about taking blood booster EPO and how easy it was to cheat in the past as there was no out-of-competition testing. "I stopped doping after I won the World Championships in 2003. The moment you win after doping it's more relief. It was hollow."

1500: In-depth interview with David Millar about his doping past on the radio feed. Millar is one of five Brits riding in this year's tour and there will also be chats with Bradley Wiggins, Geraint Thomas, Ben Swift and Mark Cavendish before the finish, which is 70km away.

1457: We're going through one of those quiet stages in the race - the peloton ambling along some four minutes behind the leading trio. The pedestrian pace is not deterring the ever-enthusiastic crowds though who are lining the verges and shouting encouragement.

1453: Another coming together in the peloton and we're briefly at a standstill. Nothing serious though and several riders take the opportunity to water the parched grass on the roadside.

Im_Partial on Twitter: "Oh no, not more tuna baguette! Is that all you lads eat?" Not my choice today. The hula hoops went down a treat though (other crisps available etc etc...)

1444: Time for a nudge in the general direction of 5 live sports extra - the programme is getting under way and you'll find it linked out of the right-hand side of this page. Former professional cyclist Graham Jones joins Simon Brotherton in the commentary box.

1440: The Omega Pharma team are pushing the peloton along and the gap is back to just over three minutes. One of their rank, Philippe Gilbert is in fine form, having become the second rider to win the three Ardennes classics (Amstel Gold, Le Fleche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege) in the same year. Tellingly, he won the La Fleche Wallone, dropping his rivals on the final climb.

1430: As the riders speed towards their lunches, mine has been delievered by my ever-reliable domestique Macca - I told him to surprise me and he's gone French on me - a baguette has arrived. Tuna and cucumber, if you're interested. Bet the riders don't have anything as tasty in their musettes.

1419: Approaching halfway through the first stage and our leaders have re-built their advantage - and here's the chalkboard, right on time, to tell us they are 3'45" clear.

1415: Farrar was followed over the line by Andre Greipel and Francisco Ventoso. Once he realised he was beaten, Cavendish eased off and was 11th to pick up five points, one place and point ahead of Petacchi. Thor Hushovd was not in the points, perhaps keeping his powder dry for the finish? What did you make of that then? A flurry of excitement to liven up proceedings no doubt.

1412: Might take a few minutes to sort out the minor places there but what that little burst of speed has done is close the gap on the leaders significantly - it's now at 2'30".

1410: And here comes the peloton, in full-on sprinting mode. Cav sitting pretty in third behind his lead-out but here comes Tyler Farrar and the Garmin rider is over the line first and collects 13 points for his efforts. Phew. Just like a stage finish there. And then it's all back to normality.

1406: The first points of the Tour are won by France's Jeremy Roy who puts in a little sprint to take the 20 points ahead of Westra and Quemeneur.

1404: Just time to tell you that we will have live commentary of the closing stages of today's race on BBC Radio 5 live. The commentary starts at 1445 BST and I'll give you another nudge a little closer to the time.

BBC Sport commentator Graham Jones on Twitter: "Interesting concept, about to see bunch sprint for an intermediate sprint!! Might liven the dull Stages up for a while!"

1400: About 5km from the one and only intermediate sprint on this, or indeed any other stage on this year's Tour. The leading trio witll take 20, 17 and 15 points between them. The first over the line from the peloton will take 11 with the next 10 also picking up points.

Text in your views on 81111
1352: Two-time green jersey winner Thor Hushovd has been sharing his thoughts on who could win today's opening stage. "It's a really hard finish, especially the last 500m," he said. "I think Philippe Gilbert, Rojas, Goss or myself. The climb suits my strengths." Any others in the mix? Tweet me via hashtag #BBCTdF or text on 81111.

Text in your views on 81111
Stuart in Reading, via text on 81111: "Contandor is probably being booed for attacking when Schlek's chain came off last yr which was disgraceful. Feel a bit sorry for him about the doping as such a small level"

1347: Team Sky duo Edvald Boasson Hagen and Rigoberto Uran were among those who took a tumble in Sables-d'Olonne - but no harm appears to have been done.

1342: 70km done, 121.5km to go and about 17km to the intermediate sprint. The leading trio still 4'30" out so they will contest the first points of this year's Tour. Should be interesting in the peloton with the sprinters looking to hoover up the best of the rest of the points on offer. Last year's green jersey winner Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre, Hushovd, Cavendish, et al will be getting themselves into position.

Text in your views on 81111
Dan in Lancaster, via text on 81111: "Has anyone ever won the first stage in their debut tour? That's what I think team sky should do with ben swift today"

1337: The peloton struggling to negotiate a narrow high street through a French town. There are several sleeping policemen style humps in the middle of the road and an Omega Pharma rider waves his hand in the air to warn other riders before hitting the deck. Hard. Looks like it was Belgian Jurgen Van de Walle. He brought down several others, but he's a big boy and he's soon back up and pedalling hard to get on the back of the peloton.


1327: Race favourite Alberto Contador has played down the boos he received when the riders were introduced earlier this week. The Spaniard tested positive during his victory last year and though cleared he is awaiting results of an appeal . Contador, 28, who could also lose the Giro title he won in May, said before the race started today: "It was a special kind of atmosphere but I've got no problems with it. It was the atmosphere of the occasion that got the better of them."

1323: Our trio out front, Roy, Quemeneur and Westra, are joined by a splendidly yellow motorcycle with a passenger carrying a chalkboard with 4'30" scrawled on it, indicating their lead. No need for electronic timing here - bit of chalk and slate, keep it simple.

1317: Another tweet supporting a stage win for Team Sky's Rigoberto Uran today. BBC blogger Geraint Thomas has already stated that he, fellow Brit, and Tour debutant Ben Swift, or Uran could feature in the shake-up for the stage win. And with a 23km team time trial, in which Team Sky are expected to be strong contenders, coming up on Sunday, could the British-based team put a man in yellow this weekend?

Yellow jersey
1310: Right then, an hour in and barely a mention of the big prize - the yellow jersey. Let's have a look at some of the main contenders. There's a handy photo gallery for you to peruse. Spain's Alberto Contador is the reigning champ but he failed a doping test held in last year's race and has a hearing hanging over him. Luxembourg's Andy Schleck is the most likely to stop Contador winning a fourth title. Britain's Bradley Wiggins is being touted for a podium place, but he's a marked man after finishing fourth in 2009.

1302: Not a particularly swift opening hour to the Tour - riders averaging 42.3km/h - that means we're set for a finish around 1630 BST this afternoon.

Stef Rees on Twitter: "My money on rigoberto uran for today, just a hunch. Although would be great if cav could do it, not impossible"

1256: That lead is coming down all the time. Now back under five minutes - the points on offer for the intermediate sprint proving too tempting for the sprinters? That checkpoint is coming up at 87km - we're 45km or so away from that and a general rule of thumb is that the peloton can close up one minute of time for every 10km travelled on a breakaway group.

1253: Nice stat from Infostrada Sports - America's George Hincapie is riding in his 16th Tour de France, equalling the all-time record of Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk (1970-1986). The American, who first rode the race in 1996, is the first rider to start in 16 successive Tour de France editions as Zoetemelk did not start in 1974. Hincapie, who rides for BMC, is perhaps best known as being one of Lance Armstrong's key domestiques - he helped his fellow American to each of his seven Tour de France victories. Chapeau George.

1245: The peloton starting to tap out a higher pace and one minute has already been scythed off the lead.

Text in your views on 81111
Ben in Monmouth, via text on 81111: "Le Tour! Love it. Wiggo for the podium, Cav for green, it's on."

The sun is out
1240: About 30km or so into the opening stage through the sun-drenched Vendee countryside and we've had our first crash. A couple of Europcar riders involved, including last year's King of the Mountains winner Anthony Charteau. Nothing serious though and we're all back pedalling.

Crash Davis on Twitter: "Have to wonder how the riders feel right now knowing there's 3000+ km and all those mountains in front of them"

1235: Looks like the escapees are not being allowed too far out. Garmin and HTC have put a couple of riders each on the front of the peloton to keep the lead at around six minutes, 30 seconds.

1232: Let's not forget Team Sky's Geraint Thomas, who has said he's got "a lot better chance than if there was a flat finish". The Welshman, who won the Tour of Bavaria in May, is blogging for the BBC Sport website throughout the race - here's his opener on his team's tactics

1228: Today's finish is not tailor-made for 26-year-old HTC-Highroad racer Cav, who prefers flatter finishes to unleash his power. So who is going to win this opening stage? Norway's world champion Thor Hushovd, who won the green jersey in 2009, may fancy an early shot, while Tour debutant and team-mate of Cav, Matt Goss is in good nick, having won the Milan-San Remo classic in March. Tweet me your thoughts via hashtag #BBCTdF or text on 81111.

Green jersey
1225: For newcomers to the Tour, the sprinters contest the green jersey, which is won by the rider who amasses the most points over the three weeks. Points are accummulated by winning a stage and intermediate sprints. Britain's Mark Cavendish has form, having won 15 stages on his last three Tours de France, but he is yet to finish in green and he is not getting carried away this year.

1220: The sprinters may be interested in the intermediate sprint that is 87km into the opening stage - 20 points up for grabs for the first rider across the line - the peloton will have to start working soon though as the escapees are five minutes down the road.

EpicallyFailing on Twitter: "Best 3 weeks of the year. Expecting a strong first week from HTC and the Team Sky boys"

1215: So, what does today's stage have in store? It's as flat as Norfolk for the first 125km or so. And then we do a wee bit of climbing as we head towards the finish at Mont des Alouttes. Now, my French is not great, but even I know that Mont means mountain and the pure sprinters will not like the finish today.

1210: Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) and Lieuwe Estra (Vacansoleil) are the men up the road and they've been allowed to build a lead of more than three minutes.

1202: Here we go then - the first break of the Tour. And three men have stretched their legs early doors - one from the local Europcar team - names when I get them. The peloton clearly not bothered - there's a long way to go today.

Text in your views on 81111
1159: We'll get on to the main contenders for the jerseys in a short while - plenty of time today as the usual short prologue has been ditched in favour of a 191.5km stage - but first, let's get you lot involved. No 606 this year, but you can Tweet me via hashtag #BBCTdF or text on 81111. (Not all contributions can be used. Messages will be charged at your standard operator rate)

1155: And we're off. Slightly early according to the timings I was given. But the 2011 Tour has begun.

1152: The peloton has already ridden across the Passage du Gois, which is a tidal causeway linking the Isle of Noirmoutier to the mainland. In 1999, the last time the race went across the causeway, it was in full-on racing mode. A little more sedate today as it's in the warm-up section and I'm sure all 198 riders are delighted. The French national anthem is belting out and we're just about ready for Le Grand Depart.

1150: Good morning all and welcome to the opening stage of the 2011 Tour de France. It's the 98th staging of the gruelling race that will cover 3,430.5km (2132 miles) We've got 15 minutes or so to the official start, so plenty of time to check out our day-by-day guide.

1145: Drinks bottle? Check. Energy gels? Check. Flapjacks? Check. Tide out? Check. Think we're good to go.

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see also
Tour de France: How the Tour unfolded
24 Jul 11 |  Cycling
Tour de France ones to watch
30 Jun 11 |  Cycling
Cavendish ignoring expectations
02 Jul 11 |  Cycling

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