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Sports

103rd Tour de France kicks into gear from Mont Saint-Michel

media The 2016 Tour de France started from Mont Saint-Michel on Saturday Reuters/Juan Medina

The 2016 Tour de France started from the scenic Mont Saint-Michel in the northern French province of Normandy on Saturday. The 103rd edition of the world’s toughest and most prestigious race will see 198 riders cover a distance of 3,500 kilometres in three weeks till its culmination on Champs Elysées in Paris.

Defending champion Chris Froome, last year’s runner up Nairo Quintana and two-time former winner Alberto Contador are among the favourites to win the race.

Alphajet planes from the Patrouille de France (France's Patrol) fly over the Mont Saint-Michel Reuters/Juan Medina

However, none among them is the favourite to win the opening stage which is a largely flat affair tailor-made for specialist sprinters.

One of the big favourites is German Marcel Kittel who won the first stage in 2013 and 2014.

“The last kilometres will be nervous and fast: downhill, straight forward and with no corners. You need a good position, but also to be lucky,” he said.

Cyclists get into their stride in Stage I Reuters/Juan Medina

The other favourites are Andre Greipel, Mark Cavendish, who is third on the all-time list of Tour stage wins, and world champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia.

The 188-kilometre stage ends on Utah Beach, where one of the famous World War II Normandy landings took place.

This year’s race comprises nine flat stages, nine mountain stages and two individual time trials.

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