Orihuela - Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen outshone world champion Alejandro Valverde and Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas to win the opening time-trial of the Tour of Valencia on Wednesday.
A swathe of elite cyclists have chosen this five-day race, won by Valverde last year, as part of their early-season bid to get back to top form.
Boasson Hagen of Dimension Data completed the 10.2km run through the town of Orihuela, past the surrounding, sun-kissed orange groves and up a short, sharp final climb to a seminary in 12:54.
Astana's Spanish rider Ion Izagirre was 5 seconds behind with Germany's former time-trial world champion Tony Martin third at 6 seconds.
"It was really nice to finally win again, I was nervous with (Alejandro) Valverde and Geraint (Thomas) and I was watching them come up the last climb," said Boasson Hagen.
"Now I'll take it day by day, I'll fight as much as possible to keep the lead."
Thomas, wearing his British champion red, white and blue shirt, suffered up the last climb but managed a handy 13:15 to finish 11th and give himself a chance of overall victory, although the Welshman said prior to the stage that his team-mates Diego Rosa and David De La Cruz were more likely to challenge.
"They’ll be doing GC. I’m here purely for a good hard workout," he told Cycling News.
"I want just to work hard all week and use it as a good block of racing."
Valverde crossed the line eighth quickest, 14 seconds adrift, while the 32-year-old Irishman Dan Martin, leader of the UAE Team Emirates, flew up the last climb with astonishing verve to come 10th at 19 seconds.
Britain's Adam Yates also shot up the final ascent but had lost time on the plains, finishing in around 13:36, while 2016 Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium was at 30 seconds.
Dutchman Niki Terpstra, freshly signed for French outfit Direct Energie and winner of the Tour of Flanders last season, finished outside the top 10 at 31 seconds after setting a fast pace in the plains.
The following two stages are over rolling terrain before Saturday's potentially decisive ride which features first and second-category climbs before culminating in a sharp 3.2km ascent.