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Millions head for Yorkshire to cheer on Le Grand Depart

UP to two million cycling fans are expected in Yorkshire this weekend for the start of the world's greatest bike race.

Sunshine with the possibility of an occasional shower is the forecast for the 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart today, with heavy rain and even lightning more likely on the Tour's second day in the UK on Sunday.

The three-week-long race returns to England for the first time since 2007, with two stages in Yorkshire and a third finishing in London on Monday.

The first stage of the Tour begins in the centre of Leeds this morning.

The teams will coast to nearby Harewood House where the race proper - through the Yorkshire Dales to Harrogate - will be started by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

The second stage tomorrow goes from York, through the moors and hills of the South Pennines, to Sheffield.

The 101st edition of the prestigious 2277-mile, 21-stage race ends in Paris on Sunday, July 27.

Chris Froome is the defending champion, while fellow Briton Mark Cavendish is among the favourites to win stage one.

The Grand Depart got off to a spectacular start on Thursday night when all of the riders taking part paraded through Leeds before taking to the stage at the city's new arena, where 10,000 spectators watched a lavish opening ceremony.

Towns and villages along the route have been decorated with miles of bunting, hundreds of yellow bikes and scores of banners wishing the riders well.

Sir Rodney Walker, Chair of TdFHUB2014 Ltd, the Government-created company overseeing the plans for the race, said the logistical preparations for the Tour are now all in place.

Sir Rodney said: "All of the final pre-event plans are now being put into action so I'm delighted to be able to say we are ready to deliver a historic spectacle for huge audiences at the roadside and those watching around the world to enjoy."

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