Paris - Dylan Groenewegen outsprinted Caleb Ewan to win the opening stage of Paris-Nice on a windswept Sunday in the outskirts of Paris.
The race, an eight-stage run to the Mediterranean sun, opened with a 138.5km circuit that began and ended in Saint-Germain-en-Laye in winds so strong they shattered the peloton.
Groenewegen, a Dutchman who won two stages on last year's Tour de France, was part of a group of 60 riders who benefited from the weather to break away.
"It was a very windy day, we had to stay ahead and, for that, there was a great team work," Groenewegen said.
"I knew the last two kilometres well, it helped me.
The winner of last year's race, Spaniard Marc Soler, was not so lucky. The Movistar rider finished in the second group just over a minute behind.
Australian Michael Matthews, the leader of the Sunweb team, crashed badly after 50km and had to drop out.
Sprinting into a headwind at the finish, Groenewegen, who rides for Jumbo, held off Ewan, of the Belgian Lotto team, with another Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quickstep) third.
"On this Paris-Nice, there are a lot of good sprinters," Groenewegen said.
"It gives me pride to beat them even if I have already done it at the Tour de France."
Groenewegen, 25, picked up a 10 second bonus to take the overall lead ahead of Evans and Pole Michal Kwiatkowski of Sky, who snapped up five seconds in intermediate sprints.
Monday's stage, a long 163.5km run south to Bellegarde, should favour the sprinters.
Results after Sunday's opening stage:
1. Dylan Groenewegen (NED/JUM) 3hrs 17min 35sec, 2. Caleb Ewan (AUS/LOT), same time, 3. Fabio Jakobsen (NED/DEC) at 0sec, 4. Sam Bennett (IRL/BOR) at 0, 5. John Degenkolb (GER/TRE) at 0, 6. Matteo Trentin (ITA/MIT) at 0, 7. Arnaud Demare (FRA/FDJ) at 0, 8. Sonny Colbrelli (ITA/BAH) at 0, 9. Bryan Coquard (FRA/VIT) at 0, 10. Anthony Turgis (FRA/DEN) at 0.