HUNDREDS of people lined streets across Gwent to cheer on cyclists who were taking part in the Tour of Britain yesterday.

The opening stage of the 109-mile challenge started in Carmarthenshire, with cyclists then travelling across the Brecon Beacons and Monmouthshire, before finishing in Newport.

The city of Newport last hosted the Tour of Britain in 2004, while the final stage of the 2017 race also passed through the city on its way to the overall finish in Cardiff.

Andre Greipel saw off stiff competition to come in first place, and was greeted by hundreds of excited fans outside the University of South Wales' Newport campus.

Race director Mick Bennett said: “Following the fantastic victory of Geraint Thomas in the Tour de France this summer it is fitting that we can welcome him, along with the reigning Giro d’Italia champion Chris Froome, to the opening stage of this year’s OVO Energy Tour of Britain in Wales.

"We are looking forward to our first every visit to Carmarthenshire and think it will be a very special occasion for everyone involved with activities planned across the route to celebrate the occasion.

“In this of all years it is fitting that we finish our opening stage in Newport, the home of Welsh Cycling, and are looking forward to an exciting finish on Usk Way in the city.”

Welsh Government finance secretary, Mark Drakeford said before the race: “I am delighted to be opening the first stage of this iconic race. Pembrey Country Park is an impressive venue for the Grand Depart, not only because it is a very popular visitor attraction but also because it has recently invested in cycling facilities, including the first national closed road circuit in south Wales.”

“The Tour of Britain has become a key event in the Welsh sporting calendar and I am pleased that the Welsh Government has been able to support this event once again this year.

“The Welsh public has always given the cyclists a really warm Welsh welcome and I’m sure that with Geraint Thomas amongst the starting line-up, people from across south Wales will come out to support the cyclists as they travel from Carmarthenshire to Newport on the first day of the race.”

And the leader of Newport City Council Councillor Debbie Wilcox echoed similar sentiments, saying: “We are looking forward to welcoming the Tour to Newport and cheering them across the finish line of stage one on the first day.

“Newport boasts such a diverse landscape which lends itself perfectly to events such as the Tour – from flat, urban routes to challenging climbs and descents through beautiful countryside. I’m sure the cyclists, supporters and spectators alike will enjoy the leg and their time in our city.”

John Hudd and Matthew Chianese were among hundreds of others who greeted cyclists at the finish line.

They had cycled to Newport from Cardiff.

"Cycling is a great way of keeping fit", Mr Hudd said.

"On average we cycle about 40 miles each trip. Going up to Usk is a nice route, via Celtic Manor."

Caroline Tinsley, from Caerphilly Cycling Club, said she was "excited" about the event.

She said: "We are all excited to watch the finish. We've watched a few of the tours before because they have come over Caerphilly Mountain in previous years.

"The atmosphere's brilliant, it's really exciting. It's really nice to see all the people on the side of the road, it's always good when local people come out to support these events."