Bois-d'Arcy - Frenchman Arnaud Demare outsprinted compatriot Julian Alaphilippe to win a wet and windy opening stage of the week-long Paris-Nice race on Sunday.
But it was a poor day for some of the overall contenders, notably Frenchman Romain Bardet who was kicked out of the race.
Before that, he, Australia's Richie Porte and Alberto Contador of Spain had been caught out by a split in the peloton caused by strong winds just 40km into the race.
They were forced to chase for more than 100km and eventually came in around a minute behind the winner.
Norway's Alexander Kristoff took third on the 148.5km stage around the west Parisian suburbs.
"That was a crazy race! I really enjoyed the splits in the peloton," enthused Demare.
"I didn't think a breakaway would form so soon... but there was the element of surprise. At the finish, everyone was spent."
Ireland's Dan Martin, Frenchman Tony Gallopin and Team Sky's Colombian climber Sergio Henao, all possible overall contenders, lost only nine seconds to Demare and gained significant time on the other title hopefuls.
Porte, the champion in 2013 and 2015, came in 47 seconds down while Contador, winner in 2007 and 2010, lost 1:04.
Bardet, second in last year's Tour de France, originally came home alongside Porte but was later disqualified for having held onto a team car as he chased back to his group following a crash 25km from the finish.
Demare had also won the opening stage last year, shortly before going on to win the first high-profile 'Monument' one-day classic of the season, Milan-Sanremo.
Monday's second stage of the 'Race to the Sun' covers 195km from Rochefort-en-Yvelines to Amilly.
Results from the opening 148.5km stage of Paris-Nice on Sunday:
1. Arnaud Demare (FRA/FDJ) 3hr 22min 43sec, 2. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/QST) same time, 3. Alexander Kristoff (NOR/KAT) at 9sec, 4. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/QST) s.t., 5. Romain Hardy (FRA/FOR) s.t., 6. Dan Martin (IRL/QST) s.t., 7. Tony Gallopin (FRA/LOT) s.t., 8. Marco Haller (AUT/KAT) s.t., 9. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) s.t., 10. Rudy Molard (FRA/FDJ) s.t.
16. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC) 47, 17. Ilnur Zakarin (RUS/KAT) s.t., 20. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) 1:04.
Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM)