Melbourne - William Clarke won the prologue to the Herald Sun Tour in Melbourne on Wednesday with Briton Chris Froome satisfied with his down the pack finish.
Drapac Pro Cycling rider Clarke was repeating his prologue victory from last year in the five-stage race which Froome has targeted as a springboard to a busy year.
The double Tour de France champion is eyeing a third triumph in cycling's blue riband ahead of the Rio Olympics in August.
Froome completed the 2.1km dash in two minutes 42.1 seconds to place him 26th, eight seconds behind Clarke who wears yellow for Thursday's first stage at Healesville.
The 29-year-old prologue specialist from Tasmania clocked 2:34.27 to beat Caleb Evans by one second while Neil Van Der Ploeg took third place.
He bettered his winning time of 12 months ago by a second.
"I'm just a little bit faster than last year," he said.
Evans said: "Will was super-strong today, as he was last year and he does really well in these short time trials. It was always going to be hard to beat him."
As for Froome, he described the dash as "a bit of a lung opener".
"Just under three minutes - it's a short, intense little sprint," he added.
"It was a good ride by Will there to repeat that and win by one second, it was impressive.
"The main objective today was just to stay upright. I think the racing is still going to be decided over these next few days and undoubtedly on Arthurs Seat at the end, that's going to be the big day."
Clarke is alive to the danger presented by Froome and Team Sky.
"On paper they've got a lot of guys that have ridden the Tour de France and Froome's won the Tour de France," he said.
"They know how to control a race so they can definitely take control if they want to."