Maurepas - World champion Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland has won the prologue of the Paris-Nice race, a 6.7 kilometre time trial in Maurepas, south-west of Paris, on Sunday.
Riding in his first Paris-Nice, the so-called "race to the sun", Kwiatkowski timed 7min 40sec, to finish ahead of world hour record holder Rohan Dennis of Australia, who was credited with the same time.
Another time trial specialist, Germany's Tony Martin, was third, seven seconds back.
In spring sunshine, race favourite Richie Porte of Australia already found himself trailing Kwiatkowski by 15 seconds, the same time as world time trial champion Bradley Wiggins of Britain.
Another of the expected front-runners, Tejay Van Garderen of the United States, fared only slightly better, finishing a second faster than Porte and Wiggins.
"When I knew I was going to be riding the Paris-Nice, I was really up for it, Kwiatkowski said.
But he added: "We mustn't get carried away yet, we've only raced 6.7 kilometres and there's more than another 1,000 to go until Nice, but I'm very happy with my performance today.
"I don't know if I can hold on to the leader's jersey and I've no idea if I have the wherewithal to win the race."
Monday's first stage sees the riders tackle the 196.5km ride from Saint-Remy-les-Chevreuse to Contres.