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Tour de France - Passage du Gois - Mont des Alouettes

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  1. 0km - Thanks for following our coverage of the opening stage of the Tour de France here at Eurosport-Yahoo! Join us again tomorrow for more coverage of stage 2.

  2. 0km - We're hearing that Bradley Wiggins was involved in that second big crash, though that one happened in the final 3km, so he won't lose time for that.

  3. 0km - The top ten: 1 Gilbert (OLO), 2 Evans (BMC) @ 3 seconds, 3 Hushovd (GRM) @ 6 seconds, 4 Rojas (MOV) - s.t., 5 Van Den Broeck (OLO) - s.t., 6 Thomas (Sky) - s.t., 7 Kloden (RSH) - s.t., 8 Taaramae (COF) - s.t., 9 Horner (RSH) - s.t., 10 Martin (HTC) - s.t.

  4. 0km - Well, plenty of people forecast Gilbert to continue his incredible sequence of wins, but nobody could have forecast the effect this stage would have on the general classification. It has been an absolute disaster for Alberto Contador. I think he was the only real GC contender badly caught out there.

  5. 0km - The Contador group has just rolled in 1'20" off the pace!! Cadel Evans will be a very, very happy man today. He's managed to put over a minute into Contador on a seemingly innocuous opening stage!!!

  6. 0km - Gilbert is in an absolute league of his own!!! Cancellara disappears from view as Evans begins to close, but Gilbert has this one sewn up!!! Gilbert wins the opening stage of the Tour de France! Evans is second, a couple of seconds back!

  7. 0.2km - Vino hits the front, as Cancellara launches a huge dig!!! Gilbert jumps onto his wheel, nobody else is there, Cancellara looks a spent force as Gilbert pulls away!

  8. 0.9km - One of the Katusha riders attacks!!! Lotto aren't letting him go clear though, and he's reeled straight back in!

  9. 1.5km - Another crash!!!! Another crash has struck the second peloton! What chaos on the opening stage!

  10. 2km - The Omega Pharma-Lotto team hits the front now as Gilbert moves into fourth position. Andre Greipel takes a huge turn, before peeling away.

  11. 2.8km - The Contador group is losing time! The gap is now out to 41 seconds!

  12. 3km - The BMC squad take over at the head of the first peloton, with Omega Pharma-Lotto, Liquigas and HTC there too as they hit the final climb!!!

  13. 4km - Contador's Saxo Bank team are really motoring now, along with Euskaltel, at the head of the second pack! There's no way they're going to be able to bridge the gap, though.

  14. 4.8km - Cadel Evans and BMC are certainly in the lead peloton. As is Gilbert, but Contador is caught behind int he second peloton, 32 seconds back!!!

  15. 5km - As soon as we get news of the whereabouts of the favourites and GC contenders I'll bring it to you, but the cameras are focussing on the front of the pack for the moment.

  16. 6km - The peloton has been shredded to bits! The majority of the riders were caught behind that crash, and are likely to lose time today as the Europcar team force a relentless pace at the head of the lead peloton.

  17. 8km - CRASH! That's a big one!!! One of the Astana riders has come down, and this is a huge crash, at a vital, vital stage!!! The Astana rider hit a spectator, and went down heavily, bringing at least 40 or so riders with them! Have any of the GC contenders been caught out? They'll really struggle to make it back now!!

  18. 10km - A few riders are falling off the back now. Rolland has been dropped as they enter the final 10km!

  19. 12km - Europcar are certainly setting a furious pace right now. A few uneasy looks are being shared amongst the HTC squad. There are a lot of nervous riders in the peloton at the moment.

  20. 14km - The Europcar team suddenly converge en masse at the head of the pack. Perhaps they're preparing something for Thomas Voeckler. Their sponsors are based in this area, so no surprise they're very active today.

  21. 18km - The lead trio have now been caught with 18 kilometres remaining.

  22. 20km - Roy, Westra and Quemeneur are about to be caught now as the Omega Pharma-Lotto team really step the tempo up. Just looking ahead to the stage finish, there are a fair few things for the riders to think about. There are no fewer than nine roundabouts in the final six kilometres, and there are a lot of traffic islands and other various bits of "road furniture" 5.5km from home.

  23. 25km - Just 40 seconds now left for our two leaders, as the action increases further at the front of the peloton. The frantic pedalling from the riders at the back of the peloton to rejoin after taking the longer way round a roundabout shows just how mucht he pace has increased.

  24. 30km - One incredible stat, courtesy of Eurosport commentator David Harmon: It's 86 days since Philippe Gilbert has ridden a race he hasn't won. That shows jsut how dominant the Belgian was back in Ardennes week and even before. Can he take his maiden Tour stage win today? He's certainly my pick for the win.

  25. 35km - David Zabriskie paces Thor Hushovd back to the peloton now after the world champion stopped for a wheel change. The ease with which they made it back to the pack shows they're far from at full pace yet.

  26. 40km - More and more teams are beginning to fight for their place at the head of the pack now, with Liquigas and Astana also coming to the front. Meanwhile, Roy, Quemeneur and Westra's lead is down to just 1'40". What a quiet stage it has been so far! All the action still to come.

  27. 45km - Julian Dean now takes over from Dave Zabriskie on the front of the pack for Garmin-Cervelo, while Gilbert's Omega Pharma-Lotto team sits in behind, headed by Van de Walle. And now Cadel Evans' BMC team make their first appearance toward the front of the pack. The Australian isn't likely to contest the sprint, but he'll want to make sure he stays at the front in the final stages so as not to risk losing any time to other GC contenders.

  28. 50km - Just 50km to go, as the gap comes down to the 3-minute mark. In response to Chris's question below, live audio is available here.

  29. 55km - It's Germin and Omega Pharma-Lotto who continue to do the work at the head of the peloton, who are now stretched right our along the road. 3'37" is the latest split, as Linus Gerdemann falls into a grassy ditch by the side of the road along with a Europcar rider and an Ag2r rider! They all appear to have walked away pretty unscathed and should be fine to continue.

  30. 60km - As far as predictions regarding the stage win today go, straydaniel points out that "this morning Gilbert named Edvald Boasson Hagen as his­ biggest rival today. Not Goss or Hushovd as you might­ expect." gm22isy wants people's thoughts on Vino's chances, and I'd like your thoughts on everybody! Please continue to post your predictions below.

  31. 65km - Jurgen Van de Walle seems to be doing very well considering the nasty crash he suffered earlier in the stage (see Km 125), though the pedestrian pace in the pack has seen the gap go back out to 5'13".

  32. 70km - Well, it's been a while since we've had such a slow pace to an opening stage of the Tour de France. The average speed of racing until now is just 41kmh.

  33. 75km - Stage favourite Philippe Gilbert is clearly a man with a lot on his mind at the moment. He was in quite lengthy discussions with rival Thor Hushovd and Saxo Bank's Matteo Tossato a little while ago, and has now dropped back for a chat with Herman Frison in his team car. Meanwhile, a bit of a tangle in the pack provides a few riders with the opportunity to stop for a "bathroom break" by the side of the road.

  34. 80km - Velopenguin has it! Greg Lemond in 1990 was the one other reigning world champion to pull on the yellow jersey. Good knowledge! Or did that require a few searches? The gap is now at 3'05" with 80 kilometres remaining.

  35. 85km - As the peloton hits the feed zone, we turn our attentions to possible stage winners. The finish looks ideally suited to Philippe Gilbert, who showed the fine form he has in the Belgian championships last weekend, though Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen, HTC's Matt Goss, and Garmin-Cervelo's Thor Hushovd could also prove a threat. Post your thoughts on today's likely stage winner below!

  36. 90km - Well done jdevries!! But not quite "Chapeau!" You have the last two reigning world champions to wear the maillot jaune spot on, but not the third. I'll leave it open for another few kilometres, before putting you out of your misery of nobody gets it. Hinault did indeed do it in 1981, but somebody else did it since then.

  37. 95km - With the intermediate sprint out of the way and the breakaway unlikely to have a cat in hell's chance of staying clear, it's time to focus on today's stage finish, and who better to give us his thoughts on it than one of the favourites for the stage win, Thor Hushovd. Click here for full interview.

  38. 100km - All that drama in the peloton has seen the breakaway's lead cut to 3'18"with 100 kilometres to go as they reach the picturesque old town of Moutier-les-Mauxfaits.

  39. 105km - Tyler Farrar (13 points) powers through to win the sprint from those in the peloton, followed by Andre Greipel (11) and Francisco Ventoso (10). Behind them are Galimzyanov (9), Bozic (8), Boonen (7), Engoulvent (6), Cavendish (5), Petacchi (4), Delage (3), Dumoulin (2) and Sabatini (1).

  40. 105km - It all kicks off in the breakaway as Jeremy Roy surges clear to take the 20 points at the intermediate sprint, followed by Westra (17) and Quemeneur (15). Back in the pack, the Lampre, HTC and Omega Pharma-Lotto teams are absolutely motoring, preparing the interdiate sprint for their leaders.

  41. 110km - Time to turn our attention to the first intermediate sprint of the Tour. There are 20 points on offer for the first man across the line, followed by 17, 15, 13, 11, 10 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1. Obviously Quemeneur, Roy and Westra will be the first three, though it will be interesting to see who in the peloton fights for the rest of the points.

  42. 110km - Reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador was given a right-royal booing by the French public at the opening ceremony. To hear Eurosport expert Stephen Roche's views on the whole affair in a video interview, click here.

  43. 115km - Garmin-Cervelo and Omega Pharma-Lotto are keeping the pace in the peloton high enough to just east the gap dwn slightly. It's fallen to 3'50" with 115 kilometres remaining. Meanwhile, my trivia question (see KM 130) seems to have our highly knowledgeable readership flummoxed! Two clues: the last two reigning world champs to pull on the yellow jersey came in the last five years. The one before them came a long time ago.

  44. 120km - It was Jurgen Van de Walle of Omega Pharma-Lotto who came down, and Jelle Vanendert has dropped back to help him back to the peloton. He looks like he's not too badly hurt, is pedalling pretty freely, but his jersey and bibshorts bear testament to the speed at which he fell - they're badly torn.

  45. 125km - The peloton seem content to keep the three leaders on a conservative leash of 4'30". Between then, Garmin-Cervelo, HTC and Omega Pharma-Lotto nkow they'll be able to close this down pretty quickly when needed. OUCH!!! Just as I type that, one of the Lotto boys comes down very heavily while warning the riders behind him about a traffic island!!! A few other riders get tangled up too! His came down nastily on his hip, and his helmet took the brunt of the impact as his head hit the tarmac.

  46. 130km - Time for today's trivia question. Reigning world champion Thor Hushovd is one of those gunning for a stage win here today. Should he win, he will automatically pull on the yellow jersey tomorrow. What I want to know, is who the last three reigning world champions were to pull on the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. Getting the last two would be impressive. If you can work out the last three, then, in the immortal words of David Duffield, "Chapeau!" Post your answers below.

  47. 135km - Dutchman Lieuwe WESTRA (Vacansoleil) is the third man in this breakaway, and a specialist in the early season classics, who can also turn in a very useful time-trial. He may be racing in his first Tour de France, but he already has quite a decent palmares, including overall victory at the Tour of Picardy in 2009, a third-place finish in the Dutch time-trial championships last year, and wins in the Classic Loire Atlantique as well as the prologue of the Tour of Belgium this season.

  48. 140km - Perrig QUEMENEUR: The Europcar man initiated the attack that took this breakaway clear, and will doubtless enjoy his day out in front in a region not far from his native Brittany. He is competing in his first Tour de France, though he has raced in one grand tour - last year's Vuelta - where he finished 100th on the GC. His last win came back when he was an amateur in the GP de Bruxerolles.

  49. 145km - A little bit of background on our three leaders, starting with Francaise des Jeux's Jeremy ROY: The tall 28-year-old from Tours has been with his team since turning pro back in 2003 following his silver medal in the European under-23 road race championships. Since then, his best result has been his victory at the GP Marsaillaise earlier this season, and he's now riding his fourth Tour. His highest finish came back in 2009, when he was 48th on the GC.

  50. 150km - Today is proving to be something of an atypical opening stage to the Tour. Not only was our breakaway established on the very first attack, the parcours itself is not really one for the pure sprinters of the ilk of Mark Cavendish, as it so often is. The 4th category climb to the stage finish on the Mont des Alouettes is likely to put paid to the Manxman's hopes of a stage win, though could well prove an ideal launchpad for one of the classics stars such as Philippe Gilbert or Tom Boonen.

  51. 155km - The gap has come down from just under seven minutes to 5'00" as the peloton steps up the tempo, with Garmin-Cervelo, Omega Pharma-Lotto and Astana all to the fore, along with HTC.

  52. 160km - A fall in the peloton! Anthony Charteau is down! As is one of his Europcar team-mates. Two Movistar riders are down too, one of them is Andrey Amador, and Nicolas Roche has got caught up in it too, prompting his Ag2r team-mates to drop back and pace him back to the peloton.

  53. 165km - Of the 198 riders who took the start this morning, Leopard-Trek's German dynamo Jens Voigt is the oldest at the age of 39. For a full list of the 198 starters in the Tour, please consult our teams page here.

  54. 170km - Both these towns of Noirmoutier and Mont des Alouettes are hosting a stage of the Tour de France for the first time in their history. The Passage du Gois that the riders departed from, a causeway joining the Ile de Noirmoutier and Beauvoir sur Mer on the mainland, is actually submerged by the tide twice a day. For full stage information click here.

  55. 175km - It's an absolutely glorious day here in the Vendée. Picture-perfect blue skies and blazing sunshine are giving the TV directors plenty of impressive shots, though the riders would doubtless prefer slightly milder temperatures. The Weather in the Vendée.

  56. 180km - Our leaders have now opened up a gap of 4'07" on the pack, who are quite content to let them go. The likes of Phil Gilbert's Omega Pharma-Lotto team, who have ambitions of winning this stage here today, will certainly be pleased enough that it's just three men they'll have to keep tabs on.

  57. 185km - Perrig Quemeneur (Europcar) was the instigator and he has been joined by Jérémy Roy (FDJ) and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil). No reaction from the peloton.

  58. 190km - And straight from the flag, Team Europcar - on their own patch - launch an attack.

  59. 191km - The pre-stage ceremonial business has been complete and the peloton begin to race at 11:58 UK time, seven minutes earlier than scheduled.

  60. 11:55 - As a result, the list of favourites to snatch the first yellow jersey in this edition is not composed of time-trial specialists but of strong finishers. Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert dyed his hair blond shortly before the Tour de France, perhaps to match the yellow colour of the race leader's jersey. The Belgian has several rivals to watch in the opening stage, including world champion Thor Hushovd of Norway, gifted Australian Matthew Goss and Frenchman Thomas Voeckler.

  61. 11:50 - For once, the Tour does not begin with a prologue but with a 191.5-km stage between Passage du Gois - a periodically flooded causeway between the mainland and the Isle of Noirmoutier in the Vendee region - and Mont des Alouettes.

  62. 11:45 - Welcome to our live coverage of the 2011 Tour de France!

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