Houilles - Frenchman Damien Gaudin, riding for Europcar, won Sunday's Paris-Nice prologue, a 2.9km time trial around Houilles west of Paris.
Gaudin, a three-time French national pursuit champion, bagged the yellow jersey after seeing off compatriot Sylvain Chavanel by 0.56sec and Dutchman Lieuwe Westra as the 26-year-old garnered his first career win five years after turning professional.
Monday's first stage proper is a 195km ride from Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Nemours.
"I was fearful right down to the final moment and shaking when I saw Westra," admitted Gaudin, who finally held off the Dutchman by 0.65sec.
Up-and-coming Dutchman Wilco Kelderman, 21, was fourth at 2sec while US racer Tejay Van Garderen finished 11sec off the pace after a conservative showing on an urban route with plenty of sharp bends.
Belgium's Maxime Monfort, a potential contender for the overall Paris-Nice crown, meanwhile had a nightmare start as he lost 40sec after crashing on a bend.
Results from Sunday's Paris-Nice prologue, a 2.9km time trial around Houilles west of Paris:
1. Damien Gaudin (FRA/EUC) 2.9km in 3min 37sec
2. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/OPQ) at 01sec
3. Lieuwe Westra (NED/VAC) 01
4. Wilco Kelderman (NED/BLA) 02
5. Geoffrey Soupe (FRA/FDJ) 02
6. Peter Velits (SVK/OPQ) 03
7. Tony Gallopin (FRA/RSH) 03
8. Borut Bozic (SLO/AST) 03
9. Sebastien Turgot (FRA/EUC) 04
10. Andriy Grivko (UKR/AST) 05