Europcar’s Damien Gaudin claimed a surprise win on the opening prologue of Paris-Nice, edging out Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) by less than a second on the 2.9km course.
The three-time national pursuit champion used his track skills to record the fastest time over an explosive and technical course in Houilles, Paris, to become the first Frenchman to win the Paris-Nice prologue for 13 years.
Gaudin recorded three minutes and 37 seconds to claim his first professional win, with compatriot Chavanel second and Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) third.
“I’m a several times French pursuit champion and I know how to prepare for this type of efforts,” said Gaudin. “I took many risks because I knew there was something to do today since Fabian Cancellara or Lars Boom were not here.”
David Millar (Garmin-Sharo) was the top British finisher in 82nd, 12 seconds back, while Jon Tiernan-Locke (Team Sky) finished a further seven seconds adrift in 151st on his WorldTour debut.
Bradley Wiggins won the race last year but Richie Porte will lead Team Sky in the Tour de France champion’s absence, and the Australian finished 39th in the prologue, nine second behind Gaudin.
“Richie produced a really good ride and is ideally positioned among the GC guys,” said Team Sky directeur sportif Nicolas Portal. “It was a technical prologue but the conditions were perfect and he rode it in a very neat and controlled manner. He was happy with his performance.”
Stage one will see the peloton cover a flat 195km route which is likely to end in a bunch sprint.