After millions of people turned out to watch the Tour de France in Yorkshire at the weekend, the world's most famous cycle race moves south today for a stage ending in the centre of London.

The third stage of the Tour will take the riders from Cambridge to the capital via parts of Essex, including Epping, Loughton and Buckhurst Hill, Woodford Green, South Woodford and Waltham Forest.

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The Guardian will be providing full live coverage of the race here.

But Ongar's Mark Cavendish has been denied the chance to win a stage on home soil after he was ruled out of the entire tour due to suffering a separated shoulder in a crash on Saturday's first stage.

The 155km stage today follows a weekend which saw at least 2.5 million people watch the teams battle through Yorkshire's city streets and country lanes.

The Tour's general director Christian Prudhomme suggested the number of spectators on stages one and two could have been as many as five million as he declared the opening to the 2014 race "the grandest Grand Depart ever".

Mr Prudhomme said the huge crowds seen for the second day out on the route were "unbelievable, incredible, amazing, astonishing".

And he said the five times Tour champion and fellow Frenchman Bernard Hinault had told him he had never seen crowds like it in 40 years of cycling.

Many of the most memorable scenes on the first two days of the Tour were on the climbs over Yorkshire's moors.

But enthusiasts hoping for similar ascents on day three will be disappointed as the stage, which takes in towns like Chelmsford and Saffron Walden as well as London's Olympic Park, is extremely flat, with no official climbs.

The highest point on the route is at Epping Forest, at 108m.

A flat race should mean a good day for the sprinters but British cycling fans will have to be content to watch without sprint specialist Mark Cavendish, who bowed out of the race in a spectacular crash in Harrogate on Saturday.

Today's race will finish on The Mall, after a closing section which will pass many of London famous landmarks and a last few kilometres along the River Thames before passing the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "As the world's largest annual sporting event prepares to make a triumphant return to our city, London is geared up and raring to go.

"After months of meticulous planning we are set to deliver a sporting spectacle that will be beamed to an audience of billions across the globe, showcasing some of our finest landmarks and most picturesque views.

"I wish every rider taking part in this gruelling endeavour the best of luck - I'm sure they will no doubt inspire even more Londoners to take to two wheels. Chapeau!"