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Mont Ventoux
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94th Tour de France - ProT

France, July 7-29, 2007

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Stage 1 - Sunday, July 8: London - Canterbury, 203km

Live commentary by Laura Weislo, Gregor Brown and Bjorn Haake

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 12:00 CEST/ 11:00 BST
Estimated finish: 17:00 CEST/ 16:00 BST

Welcome back to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the Tour de France! The riders are enjoying another beautiful day in jolly England. This morning they had a parade roll-out through London, where they passed the Tower of London and headed on to the Tower Bridge where they stopped for some ceremonies.

Christian Prudhomme and London mayor Kevin Livingstone were on hand to shake hands, cut the tape and drop the flag to start the riders on their way to Canterbury.

After a neutral roll-out where Fabian Cancellara sat at the front resplendent in his yellow jersey, the Française des Jeux team was the first to light up the race.

Queen's Guard
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

11:10 BST    7km/196km to go
A group of four got a small gap Ruben Perez (Euskaltel - Euskadi), Matthieu Sprick (Bouygues Telecom), Charles Wegelius (Liquigas) and Andrey Grivko (Team Milram) are being joined by two more riders, but their gap is still quite small.

11:12 BST    9km/194km to go
The breakaway isn't being given much breathing room, and as they hit a small rise the majority of the break goes back into the peloton, but the Saunier Duval rider continues on... Robbie McEwen is sitting at the back of the peloton spinning a low gear to save his legs.

11:14 BST    12km/191km to go
It looks like it's David Millar who's off the front of the pack - he's got his arms draped over the bars in an aero position, and is opening up a pretty sizable gap now.

11:17 BST    14km/189km to go
The peloton, which had been subjected to several attacks behind Millar, is now bunched up and waiting to throw its weight behind the chase. Millar has some neon yellow glasses to match his lemon Saunier Duval kit. His Scott bike has the same custom white paint job as his time trial bike.

11:19 BST   
Stéphane Augé goes after Millar, and is solo with about 400m advantage as the peloton heads up a small rise. In the back of the pack, McEwen is going back to his team car. He had been breathing pretty hard earlier - maybe his brake is rubbing?

11:21 BST    16km/187km to go
There's a lot of action in the peloton as they head through an industrial area - there are lots of glass office buildings and car lots along the route. A group of four is trying to make its way up to Augé.

11:24 BST    19km/184km to go
Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) and Andrey Grivko (Team Milram) have made it up to Stéphane Augé, and the four are working together to get up to Millar.

A Milram rider suddenly shot off to the side - not sure if he's heading to a quiet spot for a natural break or if he had a mechanical...

David Millar (Saunier)

Peloton at 42"

11:26 BST    21km/182km to go
Fabian Cancellara slows up and heads back to his team car - he doesn't appear to have a problem - just going back for a chat. He gets friendly handshakes from a Saunier Duval rider and from Valverde.

11:29 BST    23km/180km to go
Millar digs into his jersey pocket and pulls out an energy bar - he's clearly in this for the long haul and is fuelling up for a long, hard day in the saddle. The group of four is working well together, and are opening up time on the peloton but making slow progress toward Millar.

11:32 BST   
Grivko was the last minute substitute for sprinter Alessandro Petacchi. The Italian tested 'non-negative' for asthma medication in the Giro d'Italia, and was suspended by his Milram team pending a decision by the Italian Olympic Committee. Petacchi will find out July 24th if he will be sanctioned.

11:35 BST   
The peloton is now crossing the Queen Elizabeth II bridge, which offers great views of the surrounding area. The chasing four aren't making time up on Millar, who is very serious about this breakaway. After he and his compatriot Bradley Wiggins were denied a win on British soil, Millar is determined to deliver the fans a win in Canterbury.

David Millar (Saunier)

Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Andry Grivko (Team Milram) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) at 1.22

Peloton at 3.00

11:36 BST   
For more on David Millar read this interview.

11:39 BST    29km/174km to go
Millar is going through some narrow streets at the moment and in this town the crowds are four and five deep and going absolutely crazy for Millar! He's hammering away in the drops, looking smooth. The four behind him are holding a steady minute or so gap, while the peloton is dropping away - now 4' behind Davey Millar.

11:42 BST    31km/172km to go
Millar is heading out of Gravesend, passing by many traffic islands. Out of instinct, he points out the obstacle, but there's nobody behind him to notify. Maybe he's telling the TV motos to watch out?

11:42 BST   
Millar is riding a bike similar to what Simoni rode in the Giro.

11:44 BST    33km/170km to go
Millar's banana yellow team car comes up alongside to offer some advice to the leader. The peloton, 4'42 behind, is just going through those narrow streets of Gravesend, and the crowd will be hoping that they take their time and let Millar get the win today.

David Millar (Saunier)

Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Andry Grivko (Team Milram) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) at 1.50

Peloton at 4.30

David Millar (Saunier Duval)
Photo ©: David Reinhardt
(Click for larger image)

11:50 BST    37km/166km to go
The roads are lined with fans all along the route today - Tour fever has gripped England! Pensioners are out with their canes, families with children in buggies - all enjoying the splendid weather - cheer David Millar as he continues his quest for a stage win. He's got nearly five minutes on the bunch.

11:54 BST    38km/165km to go
The speedy Scot is working up quite a sweat now as he pounds the pedals with his arms draped over the bars. He's only got 165 kilometres to go - just a walk in the park, right?

Back in the bunch, Vladimir Gusev is sporting the white jersey of the best young rider, while Klöden is in the green points leaders jersey. Of course, Cancellara leads that competition, but he can only display one jersey at a time!

11:57 BST    43km/160km to go
Millar is heading through Strood and is digging in his pockets again - his team car pulls up and he gives them the thumbs up as he munches on his energy bar. He's not waiting for the group of four behind at all - they're gaining a bit of time, but still 1'38 back.

12:00 BST    47km/156km to go
The chasing group of four heads through a tunnel with the big Byelorussian Kuschynski doing the work at the front. With 5'25 advantage on the field, and 1'28 on the chasers, Millar takes the first intermediate sprint of the day in Gillingham.

12:02 BST    49km/154km to go
CSC is on the front of the peloton, riding tempo for Cancellara while up ahead Grivko took second in the sprint and Kuschynski third. Millar is drinking and eating all the time now - staying hydrated and fuelled for the long haul.

Current race situation

David Millar (Saunier)
Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Andry Grivko (Team Milram) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) at 1.28

Peloton at 5.25

12:04 BST    50km/153km to go
Millar's discussion with his team director must have resulted in a decision to sit up and wait for the chasers - he appears to have eased up slightly and the gap to the chase is down to one minute.

Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Cyclingnews.com
(Click for larger image)

12:05 BST   
Ben Atkins reported that Bradley Wiggins was "pretty happy with that [prologue] in the end. Because six months a go I did not give my self a shot. I did my best ride so I am happy with that."

Atkins of Cyclingnews reported that Gerrans "saw more Aussie flags than French" in his prologue run.

12:07 BST   
We just spoke with Tim Maloney who reported that there "were massive crowds in the centre of London for the start of stage one and to turn out to salute the Tour de France Départ. They were almost all English but with a few foreign voices."

Sunny skies are greeting the peloton after the last month of cool and rainy weather. "It is a warm summer day with puffy clouds, slightly cool," Maloney summarized.

12:09 BST    51km/152km to go
The group of four is now a group of five as they have made their way up to Millar. The pace in the peloton is rather leisurely - Thomas Voeckler is hardly pedalling in the back of the bunch.

12:10 BST    53km/150km to go
Outside the town of Rochester, the breakaway passes by one of the many castles in the area - and Grivko takes a turn so hard he nearly plows into the barriers. But he makes it through just barely.

12:10 BST   
Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes was pleased to be in London like many of the journalists. "It was fantastic," said Stokes. "I saw a lot of the famous buildings and I had not seen those in a while. The crowds were very much into it. There was a big, big turn out."

12:17 BST    59km/144km to go
Grivko goes to the back to chat with his team car. The 23 year-old Ukrainian is enjoying his first Tour de France, but isn't wearing the Ukrainian National road champion's jersey that he has sported for the past two years. He was too busy preparing to ride the Tour to attend.

Back in the peloton, Vinokourov gets a bike change - but he won't have too much trouble getting back through the caravan. He only has to worry about the camera motos on these narrow roads. His problem came on a stretch of cobblestones, and now his team is around him to pull him back on.

Tafi in the 2005 Roubaix
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

12:18 BST   
The riders have just left Rochester. This is the location of the discontinued Rochester Classic. The race was part of the old World Cup system (remember the vertical-stripped World Cup jersey?) and big Andrea Tafi won here in 1997.

Tafi had won the Giro di Lombardia the year before and then went on to win the Italian Championships in 1998, the Paris-Roubaix in 1999, Paris-Tours in 2000 and the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2002.

12:20 BST    60km/143km to go
The breakaway is now on a road so narrow is looks more like a bicycle path - yet even here out in the countryside there are fans lining the route. Jens Voigt told the French TV that he is expecting the break to come back today so that the CSC team can hand over the reigns to the sprinters' teams.

12:25 BST    63km/140km to go
Rémy Di Grégorio (Française des Jeux) goes back to his team car for a bottle - the air is quite dry and the temperatures mild, so the riders will need plenty of liquids today. They're in farm country now - passing by rolling hills covered in trees on one side, and brown newly plowed fields on the other side.

Stuart O'Grady is up front working for his team. He's probably a bit stiff after his crash in the prologue yesterday. He's helping to keep that breakaway in check today - the gap has stabilised to five minutes and change.

12:26 BST   
Today's stage will likely end in a sprint. To learn more about the sprinters who are vying for victory in this year's Tour de France have a read of Come on sprinters, light my fire.

12:32 BST   
A bit more about our breakaway riders... Alexandre Kuschynski, riding for Liquigas, is 27 years old. He was the Byelorussian champion last year, but took the silver this year. He also won the Boucles de la Mayenne stage race in 2005.

Current race situation

David Millar (Saunier), Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Andry Grivko (Team Milram) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis)

Peloton at 5.30

12:38 BST   
Freddy Bichot of Agritubel is also 27, and he was the winner of the 2005 Etoile de Bessèges, while Stéphane Augé is more experienced. The French rider for Cofidis is 33 this year, and won the Cholet - Pays De Loire and a stage in last year's Tour of Poland.

12:41 BST    73km/130km to go
The breakaway has less than 3km to the second intermediate sprint - Millar took on more food and drink from his team car. He's been constantly eating and drinking. Back in the peloton, Cuesta, Zabriskie, Voigt, O'Grady and Vande Velde are doing the work. Cancellara has a 'sweeper' on his wheel, and right behind the CSC train is the Discovery Channel team - George Hincapie is right up there in his stars & stripes jersey.

12:43 BST    76km/127km to go
The breakaway is heading into the second sprint in Wateringbury and the crowds are once again very substantial. All along the route today the riders are being met by large, enthusiastic crowds.

12:45 BST   
The breakaway just rolled through the sprint - Millar ahead of Grivko and Kuschynski. They're in the area of the Leeds castle now - a 1,000 year old castle which is surrounded by water.

12:48 BST    79km/124km to go
Oh dear, we have our first abandon of the Tour. Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez (Agritubel) has given up - no word yet on whether it was a crash or illness...

12:49 BST    80km/123km to go
The peloton looks like a succession of team time trials right now - CSC lined out ahead of Discovery Channel, who is followed by Astana and Caisse d'Epargne. The front of the bunch is lined out for the first 20 riders or so, but more bunched up in the back as the rest of the teams take a back seat.

Current race situation

David Millar (Saunier), Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Andry Grivko (Team Milram) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis)

Peloton at 5.05

12:56 BST    84km/119km to go
The five breakaway riders are doing fairly equal shares of work - Millar has done the most, spending 25% of the time at the front. Augé has done the least at 14%.

The gap is ever so slowly coming down - about one second per kilometre at the moment. They're down to five minutes even as the leaders enter Hadlow. They're right on the estimated fastest pace for today - the nice weather and light winds helping the riders along.

13:01 BST    87km/116km to go
Cancellara is back at his team car, he's having radio troubles today. He's getting a replacement from the team mechanic. He'll need to stay in communication because things are going to heat up in about five kilometres when they face the first categorised climb of the Tour - the category four Côte de Southborough.

13:04 BST   
With Cancellara back at the car, CSC has stepped off the gas up front allowing the break to go back out to 5'27. O'Grady is having a chat with one of the Quickstep riders.

A bit further back, Christophe Moreau is looking handsome in his red, white and blue French champion's kit. He has a matching helmet and glasses as well - he's having a good time, smiling and joking with his team-mates.

13:07 BST    91km/112km to go
Hincapie took advantage of the break in pace to answer the call of nature. He's not quite close to Cancellara enough to take the yellow jersey on time bonuses today - at 23" back, that's outside the 20" bonus for first, and with the breakaway up the road, his chance at intermediate bonuses is gone.

Current race situation

David Millar (Saunier), Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Andry Grivko (Team Milram) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis)

Peloton at 5.27

13:11 BST    94km/109km to go
The leaders are on the first climb now, and still taking turns dong the work. The grade is fairly gentle on this two lane motorway. Grivko looks around to see if anyone is going to attack for the mountain points. Now Augé comes through and picks up the pace.

13:13 BST    95km/108km to go
There is a slight dip in the gradient with 400m to go, and Kuschynski takes the lead and then Millar goes on the left! The rest just look at him for a moment, then Grivko puts the hammer down and catches him, taking the sprint ahead of Kuschynski.

13:14 BST   
That was a pretty close sprint - it looked like Grivko got it, but Millar was to the left...

Andriy Grivko in Dauphiné
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

13:15 BST    96km/107km to go
The official results of the first KOM are David Millar, Grivko then Kuschynski. That little bit of cat & mouse ahead of the sprint allowed the peloton to gain a good 20 seconds - the gap is now down to 4'44.

13:21 BST    100km/103km to go
The gap went out a little bit as the peloton is approaching the feedzone - to 4'56. Riders are tossing off their empty bottles to the crowds which are very thick through here. All of them hoping to get a free souvenir.

Current race situation

David Millar (Saunier), Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Andry Grivko (Team Milram) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis)

Peloton at 4.27

13:30 BST    107km/96km to go
As the breakaway leaves Pembury, they get a nice respite in the form of a fast descent. They still have about 14 km to go before the next KOM, but the terrain here is gently rolling hills. The pavement is quite nice, helping the race achieve a fast average speed today.

13:32 BST   
Hushovd said on TV that the prologue was harder than the one he won last year, but he's happy with his performance. He's the fastest of the sprinters, and doesn't expect to take the yellow jersey and is focusing on the stage wins. He's hoping to pick up points toward the green jersey during the next few stages, but he won't be getting any at the intermediate sprints today.

13:36 BST    109km/94km to go
While the breakaway is heading up a little climb on a narrow, forested road, the peloton is still on the motorway and encounters a split in the road - one half goes left, one half goes right - but they all meet up on the other side.

At the back of the peloton, Klöden is having a chat with Mario Aerts (Predictor-Lotto). They're able to chat easily as the pace in the bunch has slowed significantly, allowing the gap to the break to go out over six minutes.

13:38 BST    112km/91km to go
Up at the front of the race, Augé has increased the amount of work he's doing, and now all four are putting in their equal share. They're still about 10km from the second climb, the Côte de Goudhurst.

13:41 BST    113km/90km to go
Outside the town of Brenchley, the peloton is heading through a lovely tunnel of tall trees on a narrow road. It's a bit of a climb, and there are plenty of cyclo-tourists cheering the riders along.

13:49 BST   
Ben Atkins checked in with us. "In Canterbury it is a nice sunny day and the crowds are starting to come out. There is a beautiful cathedral but unfortunately the course did not come into city because the roads are too small. The race finishes outside of the city on the main roads."

Atkins and the Cyclingnews crew drove the finale. "The last kilometres are quite twisty. The final kilometre is a two lane road; there is a roundabout before just before the final starts. There is a left turn with about 500 to 600 metres to go, and then straight to the finish."

13:50 BST    120km/83km to go
The breakaway is on the second climb now - this one is a bit shorter than the first, and has some steeper sections. Still, just a category four, it's nothing to worry the sprinter-types.

The pace is right around 42 km/h so far today - after a quick start, the nerves in the peloton have calmed and they're taking it easy on their legs a bit.

13:53 BST    120.5km/82.5km to go
With 500m to go before the second KOM, Kuschynski puts in a big attack, but he doesn't go very far. Bichot counters, and gets a good gap and while Augé tries to get on terms, he just can't.

13:55 BST    123km/80km to go
Bichot gets the KOM ahead of Augé, who looks pretty cooked after that effort. Kuschynski held on for third in that sprint. Millar wasn't messing with any category four mountain sprints, and is looking a lot fresher than his companions. When he comes through to the front, he ups the pace so much that Bichot starts to open a gap. Millar eases off to let everyone catch their breath before pulling through again.

Current race situation

David Millar (Saunier), Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Andry Grivko (Team Milram) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis)

Peloton at 5.50

13:59 BST   
The magnificent cathedral is at the centre Canterbury, however the city seems to be modern and vibrant. There are quite a few restaurants, pubs and nightclubs. Of note is that every October there is the Canterbury Festival, a music and arts party.

If you get a chance, check out this city on foot or bike. Walk the maze of twisty side streets to find specialist shops, welcoming cafés and pubs. Or relax along the River Stour that passes through the city.

14:01 BST    126km/77km to go
The peloton has just crested the second KOM - but there aren't any points left for them. CSC is still on the front with big Jens Voigt leading. AG2r has moved up to second position, and Astana has mixed in with the Discovery Channel team. With 77 kilometres including one intermediate sprint and the final category four climb at Farthing Common still to go, they're not in a huge hurry to bring this breakaway back.

14:03 BST   
"I went around the course with Christian [Prudhomme] and the mayor of Paris," said London Mayor Ken Livingstone of yesterday's parcours to Cyclingnews. "They could not believe the course and they have never seen anything like it. ... It is the best Grand Départ that anyone can remember. We are planning for when we can do it again."

The Tour has never been to London but was in Great Britain in 1994 and 1974. In 1994 the crowds broke Tour records that were only topped when the Tour visited Germany some years later.

14:06 BST    130km/73km to go
CSC has spent the entire chase at the front of the peloton, but now we're starting to see some new jerseys near the front. There's one Quickstep and one Crédit Agricole rider up there - could it be that the sprinters' teams are starting to come to the fore to get this gap down?

14:08 BST    132km/71km to go
The answer is a sound yes. The Quickstep rider, Cedric Vasseur, has taken over the chase from Dave Zabriskie, and the gap is falling dramatically now. It's down to 4'20 and dropping like a stone.

14:12 BST    134km/69km to go
The gap is falling at nearly 10 seconds per kilometre now. They could make the catch in 20+ kilometres if they wanted to, but if the chase goes as it usually does for the Tour, the sprinters' teams will time the catch so it's a bit closer to the finish.

There's an intermediate sprint coming up in Tenterden in 6 kilometres, and the breakaway is safe for now. They might even hold on for the final climb with 20km to go. Guesses anyone?

14:15 BST    137km/66km to go
The chase has eased up slightly, and the gap has stopped falling so dramatically. The rapid fall of the advantage of this breakaway could have been due to the difference in terrain, but it's still coming down - 3'23 at the moment.

14:19 BST    138km/65km to go
The teams of Crédit Agricole, Predictor-Lotto and Quickstep still have riders ahead of the CSC train - but just one for C.A. and Quickstep, two for Predictor. They're not getting serious yet. Vasseur is still there, along with Wim Vansevenant of Predictor-Lotto - his long, slender legs cranking out the watts on his Ridley.

14:23 BST    141km/62km to go
The intermediate sprint was a hard-fought battle between Kuschynski, Bichot and Grivko who crossed the line in that order... the effort was full on, and Bichot was going so hard he nearly tagged a motorcycle after the line. Once again, Millar sat out that mess and went straight to the front after the sprint to keep the pace high.

Current race situation

David Millar (Saunier), Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel), Andry Grivko (Team Milram) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis)

Peloton at 2.42

14:26 BST    143km/60km to go
Oscar Freire is being shepherded through the caravan by his faithful team-mate Grischa Niermann. No word on if it was a flat, a mechanical, or a trip to the medic to get some cream for his cyst, but he'll get back to the bunch in plenty of time for the sprint.

14:28 BST    146km/57km to go
The gap has come down to just over two minutes for our breakaway, and Bichot is getting nervous. He attacks into the slipstream of the camera motorbike and opens up a good bit of real estate on his four companions.

14:32 BST    148km/55km to go
CRASH! An Agritubel rider, Mercado, hit the deck and sent a Caisse d'Epargne rider to the ground - Zandio - he fell straight down and Aussie Brett Lancaster had nowhere to go and went straight into a traffic island. That looked awfully painful, and it's surprising they're all up and riding again.

14:35 BST    151km/52km to go
That looked like a touch of wheels that took down Mercado - the peloton was passing through an intersection where there were some posts in the centre of the road. When Mercado fell, the Gerolsteiner rider behind him locked up the brakes and Zandio wasn't quick enough to avoid him. Lancaster flew over Zandio and landed next to the post - a foot farther and he would certainly have broken his leg.

They're all up and chasing, Zandio getting some help from the team car. The peloton is sitting up to wait for the crash victims, allowing the break to get more room - it's 2'29 now.

14:40 BST    154km/49km to go
Bichot had been caught, but he wasn't happy with the pace of the group and launched another attack. He is followed by Augé and Kuschynski and now Millar, who was caught out, is calling it quits. He and Grivko just sit up and get swamped by the follow vehicles.

14:43 BST    158km/45km to go
The UK lost one chance to win a stage on home soil, but they still have some cards to play - the young sprinter Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man has been winning some pretty big sprints in his first year. Will T-Mobile be leading out him or their other sprinter Bernard Eisel?

Pippo Pozzato
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

14:48 BST    159km/44km to go
Millar and Grivko wave hello to their old pal the peloton as they go straight back into the fold. The gap is now hovering around two minutes and not dropping quite as fast as before. The sprinters' teams aren't out in force yet - still the two Predictor-Lotto men, Vasseur and our Crédit Agricole rider.

Leif Hoste won't be lending a hand anytime soon because he's had a flat tyre. He gets a very fast wheel change and is immediately off and sprinting his way through the caravan.

Current race situation

Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis)

Peloton at 1.34

14:53 BST    164km/39km to go
Now that Millar is back in the peloton, the yellow boys of Saunier Duval are throwing their power into the chase and bringing back the three men who left Millar behind - revenge! Actually, they're probably working for their sprinter Ventoso who had some promising top ten finishes in bunch sprints last year. The 25 year-old was still finding his legs back then and from the looks of his team's hard work, he's feeling fine today.

14:55 BST    166km/37km to go
There are still 17 kilometres until the top of the last KOM, and our reader Tim Old wrote in to share his first hand knowledge of these roads. "If the breakaway can just get to the top of Farthing Common they have some great downhill stretches to keep the breakaway going... but of course the charging train of the peloton will also have those downhill stretches to come charging after them."

14:59 BST    169km/34km to go
Our three escapees are giving it their all to stay ahead, but the peloton is looking far more at ease with the pace even though they're bringing the gap down quite quickly. It's down to just 53" and Bichot attacks again.

Back in the peloton, a Discovery channel rider stops, and his teammate stops to help... it's Levi Leipheimer who must have had a flat. Not good, as the chase is going full on and they're way back in the caravan. He's got Popovych with him, who should be strong enough to haul his team leader back into the safety of the peloton.

15:01 BST    170km/33km to go
Leipheimer gets three more of his team-mates back to help him chase back on. Discovery Channel has been deprived of their favourite event this year, the team time trial, but they're getting some practice anyhow.

Current race situation

Aleksandr Kuchynski (Liquigas), Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis)

Peloton at 0.48

15:03 BST    172km/31km to go
There's no more fooling around with attacks up front - the three riders, Bichot, Kuschynski and Augé are once more working smoothly together, but they're seeing some discouraging numbers on the chalkboard - down to 38".

15:04 BST    173km/30km to go
The wind is picking up a bit, and the Union Jack flags along the course are flapping. With roads twisting left and right, they are getting hit on all sides by the breeze.

15:08 BST    175km/28km to go
Freire must have made it back to the bunch because we're seeing the blue and orange of Rabobank moving up near the front. The shining white teeth of Michael Boogerd are gleaming in the bright sunshine. The peloton splits around one of the many traffic islands, and the bunch nearly has the breakaway in sight - just 17"!

15:09 BST    176km/27km to go
Augé is not giving up without a fight, and he powers away from Bichot and Kuschynski - getting low in the drops as he pounds away on the pedals.

15:11 BST    177km/26km to go
Bichot and Kuschynski soft pedal as the peloton comes past them in a small rise, and up front, Augé has his mouth wide open, gasping for every molecule of oxygen he can bring into his lungs. He's opened up the gap to 30 seconds, but will face the final KOM in a few kilometres.

The climb to Farthing Common is just over one kilometre long, but it's steeper than the other two - 6.1% average.

15:14 BST    179km/24km to go
32 seconds for our leader, who is still going strong. Rather, the peloton is taking a momentary break from the chase, allowing his gap to go out a tad. Saunier Duval is still on the front, but they're looking around to the other teams to pitch in.

15:16 BST    180km/23km to go
Ouch! Another crash in the back of the peloton! Benjamin Noval (Discovery Channel), Dario Cioni (Predictor - Lotto) and Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Team CSC) are among the victims. Looks like McEwen got held up by that incident, as did Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis). Johan Van Summeren is helping McEwen get back on.

15:18 BST    183km/20km to go
The confusion of the crash has helped our leader to stay clear for the KOM - he is out of the saddle, rocking the bike back and forth and pulling on those bars to try and keep the speed up. The sweat is pouring from his brow as he tackles the last 500 metres of the climb.

Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile)
Photo ©: John Pierce
(Click for larger image)

15:19 BST    183km/20km to go
Another sprinter is out of luck today - Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile Team) has a flat tyre and is really angry about it. He gets a fairly slow wheel change, but gets going eventually.

Current race situation

Stéphane Augé (Cofidis)

Peloton at 0.15

15:20 BST    184km/19km to go
Augé gets the KOM points, which was actually one of his objectives this morning - mission accomplished. Back in the pack, Quickstep is taking advantage of the fact that Cavendish and McEwen are off the back to go to the front and bring back Augé, who sits up immediately after that final climb.

15:22 BST    184.5km/18.5km to go
Cavendish is having no luck! He has to get a bike change, and his chase gets a heartbreaking setback.

The Quickstep team came to the front after the top of the climb, and Saunier Duval's Davids - Millar and de la Fuente - took second and third in the KOM, respectively.

15:24 BST   
For more on the young sprinter read the Mark Cavendish interview.

15:25 BST    190km/13km to go
Now that the peloton is 'gruppo compatto', Quickstep has taken control along with the Lampre squad of Daniele Bennati. In the cars, Predictor-Lotto has much of their team bringing Robbie McEwen back to the bunch.

Current race situation

Peloton together

15:28 BST    191km/12km to go
McEwen certainly isn't lonely off the back of the peloton - there is a group of 20 riders or more including Iglinsky of Milram, several Rabobank riders and the aforementioned crash victims - all of these riders were held up by the wreck and are desperately trying to get on terms.

Lancaster is also back there for Milram, leaving Erik Zabel without two strong lead-out men.

15:29 BST   
Scot David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) are equal on points after the three small cat 4 mountain passes for the day. However, it is Millar who will be awarded the 2007 Tour's first Maillot Blanc à Pois Rouges of best climber due to his better overall standing.

15:30 BST    194.5km/8.5km to go
There's no sign of the green jerseys of Crédit Agricole up front - where is Hushovd? Lampre and Quickstep are still in control, and the yellow jersey of Cancellara is staying close to the front to be safe. McEwen and his group are trailing the bunch by 18" - a practically impossible margin with 8.5km to go.

15:33 BST    197km/6km to go
It looks like McEwen might have fallen down - he appeared to have a bit of road rash on his left arm. His team is working really hard to get him back in the bunch even though he probably doesn't have a chance at the stage win anymore.

The peloton has a small climb to tackle as they head toward Canterbury - they're not even remotely lined out with just under 6km to go - unusual for a Tour finish.

15:34 BST    198km/5km to go
Alessandro Ballan takes over the lead for Bennati - but he's lost his man and is followed by the Quickstep train and pulls off to go looking for his sprinter.

15:35 BST    198.9km/4.1km to go
Gert Steegmans takes the pace making duties, and then Tossato comes forward. But they concede the lead to Lampre riders once more.

15:36 BST    200km/3km to go
No sign of Bennati, but could this be a lead-out for Napolitano? He won a stage of the Giro, and he and Bennati will be fighting for the sprinters' hierarchy on their team.

15:37 BST    200.5km/2.5km to go
No team has control of this bunch, the speed is too slow to string out the group. Ballan pulls off and now Tosatto takes over. Gerolsteiner is in there, as is Rabobank.

15:37 BST    201km/2km to go
Quickstep has four up front with Boonen in last wheel - Milram has someone up front now - and they Milram train swamps Quickstep!

15:38 BST    201.5km/1.5km to go
After four hours, they hit Canterbury, and Milram and Quickstep are fighting for the lead.

15:38 BST    202km/1km to go
Milram has the lead- for Sieberg? Zabel?

15:38 BST    202.5km/0.5km to go
The bunch sweeps left then right - Zabel's last lead out man takes over.

15:39 BST   
Barloworld's Hunter goes early! followed by a Disco rider!

15:39 BST   
And where did he come from??? McEwen?

15:39 BST   
McEwen comes up on the left and surprises everyone!

15:40 BST   
What an incredible chase! Nobody ever saw the pocket rocket get back in the pack, and Robbie McEwen gets his 12th Tour win by a whole bike length!

15:41 BST   
He blasted through the pack with such a turn of speed that Boonen's hair flew forward with the gust of wind. Thor Hushovd got second on the far right ahead of Boonen.

15:42 BST   
What a spectacular bit of riding by McEwen and his Predictor-Lotto team. To bring back their sprinter within the last ten kilometres from a nearly 20 second deficit and then deliver him to the front to take the stage win is just incredible. It's the fault of Quickstep, Milram and Lampre for not co-operating to keep the pace high, really.

15:44 BST   
Agritubel's French sprinter Romain Feillu had a pretty good kick in the last 200 metres - a good result for the Pro Continental team.

15:47 BST   
Sébastien Chavanel took a solid fourth place, putting two Frenchmen into the top ten - a very good result for the Cofidis team today.

On the GC, David Millar moved into third place ahead of George Hincapie thanks to time bonuses, but the classification is otherwise unchanged.

Well that's it for our live coverage for today - the magical mystery tour has just begun! Come back for more fun tomorrow when the race heads into Belgium.

Provisional results

1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Predictor-Lotto
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic
4 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française Des Jeux
5 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel
6 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
7 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
8 Marcus Burghardt (Ger) T-Mobile
9 Francisco José Ventoso (Spa) Saunier Duval-Prodir
10 Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Discovery Channel          

General classification after stage 1

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana
3 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval-Prodir
4 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
5 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis
6 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne
8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole
9 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana
10 Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank

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