Doha - Tom Boonen of Belgium won the first, 133.5km stage of the Tour of Qatar here on Sunday, sprinting home ahead of Britain's Adam Blythe and Peter Sagan of Slovakia.
The win gave Boonen the overall lead ahead of Monday's second stage, a 11.3km team time-trial on the motorcycle Grand Prix circuit of Lusail.
The win was a sign that the veteran Boonen is starting to get some of his old form back after an injury-wrecked 2011 when he chalked up only two wins - one coming at the Tour of Qatar 12 months ago.
Boonen won a stage last week at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina and his team-mates were left in no doubt that he is firmly back in the saddle.
"I am confident that I can still compete with all top sprinters out there even though these days that is not my priority," he said.
"Last year at this time I was struggling with pains in my left leg which stemmed from the knee operation I had.
"That dragged on for months and then I broke bones in my hand in the Tour of Spain.
"Today all that is behind me and at last I am free from injuries."
The former world champion, however, said he had been surprised at winning on Sunday having spent three days travelling to the Gulf from South America.
"There was also jet lag to get over and at the start of the race I didn't feel great. But gradually it all came together for me," he said.
Results on Sunday in the first stage of the Tour of Qatar:
Stage 1 - 141.5kms - Brazan Towers to Doha Golf Club:
1. Tom Boonen (BEL/OmegaPharma-QuickStep), the 141.5 km en 3 h 11:32
2. Adam Blythe (GBR) same time
3. Peter Sagan (SVQ) same time
4. Tyler Farrar (USA) same time
5. Daniel Oss (ITA) same time
6. Mark Renshaw (AUS) same time
7. Alexander Kristoff (NOR) same time
8. Davide Appollonio (ITA) same time
9. Jonas Van Genechten (BEL) same time
10. Robert Wagner (GER) same time
1. Tom Boonen (BEL/OmegaPharma-QuickStep) en 3 h 11:22
2. Adam Blythe (GBR) at 4.
3. Peter Sagan (SVQ) at 6.
4. Tyler Farrar (USA) at 7.
5. Adam Hansen (AUS) at 7.
6. Davide Appollonio (ITA) at 8.
7. Marco Haller (AUT) at 8.
8. Mark Renshaw (AUS) at 9.
9. Nicolas Maes (BEL) at 9.
10. Daniel Oss (ITA) at 10.