Spain’s Alejandro Valverde won the opening stage of the 95th Tour de France after a storming finish in the final kilometre.
The Caisse d’Epargne rider – among the favourites to win this year’s Tour - burst forward in the final 200 metres after it looked like Kim Kirchen had the win all wrapped up.
The Columbia rider from Luxembourg was well ahead of the Spaniard after the final bend, but he could not continue his momentum and began to flag as he was caught with apparent ease by Valverde.
Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert of Francaise des Jeux and Frenchman Jerome Pineau of Bouygues Telecom also passed the Luxembourg rider before the line to complete the top three.
Saunier Duval-Scott’s Riccardo Ricco, runner-up at this year’s Giro d’Italia, finished behind Kirchen in fifth, ahead of race favourite Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Frank Schleck (CSC-Saxo Bank) and Filippo Pozzato of Liquigas.
However, Spain dominated the top 10 as Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Valverde’s Caisse d’Epargne team-mate Oscar Pereiro completed the front runners.
Afterwards, Valverde dedicated the win to his family, friends and team-mates, before warning his rivals he has his eyes set on more glory before the event reaches Paris.
“It’s an important victory for me today. I’m very proud,” he said.
“Of course I have my eyes on the podium in Paris, but it’s important to win a stage and have the yellow jersey.”