NOIRMOUTIER-EN-L'ILE, France — Chris Froome's pursuit of a record-tying fifth Tour de France title has begun amid big crowds under sunny skies on an island off the Atlantic coast.
The full peloton of 176 riders split between 22 teams got rolling Saturday morning for the mostly flat 201-kilometer (125-mile) first stage from Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile to Fontenay-le-Comte.
Three French riders — Kevin Ledanois (Team Fortuneo-Samsic), Jerome Cousin (Direct Energie) and Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) — attacked at the start flag and quickly established an advantage of more than a minute.
After crossing a bridge to the mainland, the route will take riders along the coastline before heading slightly inland for the finish.
Crosswinds permitting, the first wearer of the yellow jersey should be decided in a mass sprint.
Froome is aiming to join Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain as the only riders to win the Tour five times.
The three-week Tour ends July 29 in Paris.