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Tour de France 2015 kicks off from Utrecht

media Movistar rider Alex Dowsett in action during the individual time-trial stage of the 2015 Tour de France in Utrecht. Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

The 102nd edition of the Tour de France kicked off from Utrecht in the Netherlands on Saturday with a time trial stage. BMC Racing’s Rohan Dennis laid down the mark on the first day by completing the 13.8 km individual time trial stage in 14 minutes 56 seconds.

Local favourite Tom Dumoulin, who at one time looked like beating Dennis' time, finished eight seconds behind the Australian rider.

A total of 197 riders from 22 teams are participating in the three-week event which comprises 21 stages over a distance of 3,360 kilometres.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, 2013 champion Chris Froome and two-time winner Alberto Contador are the hot favourites to win this year’s championship.

Of the three, Contador and Froome seem to have the momentum and the form to wear the yellow jersey on Champs Elysees on July 26.

While Froome won the Criterium du Dauphiné in June, Contador won this year's Giro d'Italia in convincing style.

If Contador wins this year's Tour de France, he will become the only rider since 1998 to win the two grand cycling events in the same year.

After the Netherlands, the Tour passes through Belgium before entering France on 7 July.

French hopes rest on Jean-Chriostophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot who had finished second and third respectively in the overall standings last year. The 25-year-old Pinot had also won the young rider classification category.

This year riders will have to overcome nine flat stages, three hill stages, seven  mountain stages with five altitude finishes and two time-trial stages.

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