Cycling / Tour de France: The serenity of Knowle Park provides the perfect start for the Tour de France

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FOR some, it meant setting the alarm clock at a testingly early hour, but for those cyclists in the first group to set off on yesterday's Tour de Kent the reward for their prompt start became quickly evident. On a day of beautiful sunshine, the determined bunch who left Knole Park in Sevenoaks shortly after 8:30am were grateful for the chance to cover a large part of the 65-mile ride to Dover Castle before temperatures reached their peak.

The charity bike ride, which The Independent helped to organise, is expected to raise more than pounds 20,000 for The Prince's Trust, which helps young disadvantaged people. Two television presenters, Jeff Banks of The Clothes Show and Normski of Def II, were among the first group to set off. The voice that the riders and spectators heard over the public address system was also familiar. For Hugh Porter, Britain's former world professional cycling champion, the Tour de Kent provided a good opportunity to hone his commentating skills for the arrival of the Tour de France in Britain later this week.

The cyclists on Kent's roads yesterday may not have travelled through the county as fast as Miguel Indurain and company will do, but they showed great commitment. Peter Miller, the ride director, said: 'Only one or two failed to make it to the finish and they only dropped out towards the end.'

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