Peloton rides into London

Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Crowds cheer as cyclists competing in the Tour de France pass through London's Parliament Square on July 7 near the end of Stage 3.

Yes, you heard that right — the world's greatest cycling race kicked off this weekend in the United Kingdom instead of France. Although the majority of the race will remain within France's borders, organizers moved the first three stages across the English Channel for the first time.

Although the race has featured stages in England in the past (specifically in 1974, 1994 and 2007), this will be the first time that there have been more than two of the 21 stages held in England. The special English-edition stages, which wrapped up Monday evening with a gorgeous finish on The Mall in London, brought thousands of cycling fans out to line the streets and cheer on their favorites.

So far, Marcel Kittel of Germany dominated Stages 1 and 3, while Vincenzo Nibali of Italy nabbed Stage 2. The Tour de France returned to its home country on July 8, with Kittel also winning Stage 4, which was a flat 102-mile route running from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Lille.

Continue below for more highlights from the race's brief English cameo!

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Man sits on a hill to watch the peloton

Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

A man sits with his dog on a grassy hill in Holm Moss, England on July 6 as crowds gather to observe Stage 2 of the Tour de France.

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Spectators with their faces painted with polka dots

Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

A group of girls paint their faces in "King of the Mountain" colors — just like the hill-climbing bike leader who wears the polka-dot jersey — as they get ready to watch Stage 2 of the Tour de France on July 6 in Holm Moss.

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Spectators watch the race from windows

Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Spectators perch from their windows on July 5 to catch a glimpse of the Tour de France peloton near the Stage 1 finish line in Harrogate, England.

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Peloton passes through Parliament Square in London

Photo: Oli ScarffGetty Images

Crowds cheer as cyclists competing in the Tour de France pass through Parliament Square at the end of Stage 3 in London.

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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.

Tour de France kicks off ... in England?
For the first time, organizers moved the first 3 stages of the Tour de France across the English Channel.