Sprinters Mark Cavendish of Britain, second left, and Germany's Andre Greipel, right, shake hands as Britain's Christopher Froome, second right, and Spain's Alberto Contador, left, wait for the start of the first stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 190.5 kilometers (118.4 miles) with start in Leeds and finish in Harrogate, Britain, Saturday, July 5, 2014.
The 198 competitors in the 101st Tour de France have started their grueling three-week ride through four countries before ending the world's greatest cycling race in Paris on July 27.
Saturday's 190.5-kilometer (118.4-mile) Stage 1 takes the pack on a rolling loop along the bucolic English countryside from Leeds to Harrogate — a layout that could be tailormade for a sprinter to win.
Many enthusiastic Union Jack-waving fans on the course are hoping that Britain's Mark Cavendish, one of the world's great sprinters, will win this first of three tour legs in England before the race enters France. It would be Cavendish's first ever yellow jersey.
Kate, the Duchess of Cornwall, was expected to bestow the first race leader's yellow jersey at the day's awards ceremony. Watched by her husband Prince William and his brother Prince Harry, the duchess cut the race ribbon at the start of the first leg which also featured a flyover by aeronautical display team the Red Arrows.
Overall race favorites are defending champion Chris Froome, a 29-year-old Kenyan-born Briton who leads Team Sky, and two-time champ Alberto Contador.
In all, the riders will cover 3,664 kilometers (2,277 miles) of roads in England, France, Belgium and Spain.
<a href="http://tourdefrance.nbcsports.com">Watch a livestream of the Tour de France here. </a>