Saint-Etienne - Belgium's Thomas De Gendt burst away to win the opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine, a 170.5km ride around the French city of Saint-Etienne on Sunday.
Chris Froome leads the cast of riders competing in the race that is an important warm-up event for the Tour de France. He is preparing to defend his title on the Grand Boucle next month.
Lotto rider De Gendt however stole the show as he finished 44 seconds clear of France's Axel Domont after dropping him on the final climb of a hilly circuit, with the peloton almost a minute adrift.
Froome came home in the peloton, 59 seconds behind the winner.
De Gendt and Domont had themselves broken away from a group of seven riders with 23 kilometres left.
"For the first 120 kilometres I wasn't thinking about winning the stage, only about the points in the best climber standings," said De Gendt.
"I haven't raced since the Tour de Romandie and I've been in training for the last month. It is a bit of a surprise victory for me."
De Gendt, 30, has notably won one stage on the Tour de France in 2016 and another on the Giro d'Italia in 2012, when he finished third overall.
He said he hopes to still be in the overall leader's yellow jersey after Wednesday's time-trial but he admitted he is unlikely to last much longer in contention.
Froome, meanwhile, will be aiming to get himself into contention in the coming days.
"It was a good stage and good for us to get that one out of the way without any major issues," said the 32-year-old Team Sky rider.
"Thomas De Gendt did well today and he'll definitely hold onto the jersey for a few days. He's obviously going well, but once we hit the big climbs I expect he'll give up the jersey at one point."
Monday's second stage in the eight-stage race will be a 171km ride from Saint-Chamond to Arlanc.
STAGE 1 RESULTS
1. Thomas De Gendt (Belgium / Lotto) 4:16:54"
2. Axel Domont (France / AG2R) +48"
3. Diego Ulissi (Italy / UAE Team Emirates) +1:03"
4. Pierre Latour (France / AG2R) +1:07"
5. Emanuel Buchmann (Germany / BORA)
6. Sonny Colbrelli (Italy / Bahrain) +1:09"
7. Julien Simon (France / Cofidis)
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spain / Movistar)
9. Ben Swift (Britain / UAE Team Emirates)
10. Michael Valgren (Denmark / Astana)
11. Jens Keukeleire (Belgium / Orica)
12. Tony Gallopin (France / Lotto)
13. Grega Bole (Slovenia / Bahrain)
14. Tiesj Benoot (Belgium / Lotto)
15. Chris Froome (Britain / Team Sky)
16. Mauro Finetto (Italy / Delko)
17. Simon Clarke (Australia / Cannondale)
18. Alberto Bettiol (Italy / Cannondale)
19. Guillaume Martin (France / Wanty)
20. Brent Bookwalter (US / BMC Racing)
21. Daniel Martin (Ireland / Quick-Step)
22. Andrew Talansky (US / Cannondale)
23. Stef Clement (Netherlands / LottoNL)
24. Fabio Aru (Italy / Astana)
25. Richie Porte (Australia / BMC Racing)
26. Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark / Astana)
27. Sam Oomen (Netherlands / Sunweb)
28. Thomas Degand (Belgium / Wanty)
29. Romain Bardet (France / AG2R)
30. Nicolas Roche (Ireland / BMC Racing)