Tour de France 2014 begins: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge plus Prince Harry provide a royal send-off in Yorkshire

The first of three stages in the UK before the race returns to France got underway today

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry gave the opening stage of the 101st Tour de France a royal send-off from Harewood House on Saturday morning.

The peloton rode north out of Leeds in a neutralised procession before lining up once again for the official start of the stage to Harrogate.

Saturday's 190.5km stage will take the riders through the Yorkshire Dales before they loop back and head south into Harrogate, where Mark Cavendish was hoping to take the leader's yellow jersey for the first time in his career - in his mother's home town.

Omega Pharma-QuickStep sprinter Cavendish was one of four British riders to take the start, along with defending champion Chris Froome and his Team Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas, and Orica GreenEdge's Simon Yates.

Froome and Cavendish had led the pack north out of Leeds along roads lined with thousands of fans as the people of Yorkshire came out to show their support for the race.

It was the second time cycling's biggest race has begun in Britain, following the 2007 Grand Depart in London, and the fourth time in total that stages have been held in the country.

Plymouth hosted a single stage in 1974 and two stages took place in the south of England in 1994.

On Sunday, stage two will see the riders take on some of Yorkshire's most famous climbs as they go from York to Sheffield via the High Peak, before Monday's stage from Cambridge to London sets them on their way back to France.

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