French national champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) outpaced Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Merida) to win stage one of Paris-Nice and move into the overall lead.
The 22-year-old claimed his second victory of the season, having previously won a stage of the Tour of Oman, after edging out Petacchi and Elia Viviani (Cannondale Pro Cycling) at the end of the 195km stage from Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Nemours.
Bouhanni, who finished 52rd in the opening prologue, now leads the race thanks to a ten-second time bonus and paid tribute to his team-mates after securing victory.
“I was already delighted to have won the last stage in the Tour of Oman but I hadn’t raced since and I was not sure what my condition was,” he said. “I’m above all delighted for the team as they did a hell of a job.”
Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Bertjan Lindeman (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Yannick Talabardon (Sojasun) formed the day’s break but the trio were reeled in with 20km remaining.
That setup the bunch sprint but a significant group of riders, including fast men Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), were distanced after the peloton split in crosswinds, leaving Bouhanni to take top honours.
“In the finale, I didn’t care too much about what was happening behind with Boonen or Kittel,” added Bouhanni. “I was focused on my sprint.
“I’m all the happier as this is my first Paris-Nice and it’s extraordinary to win the first stage with the French champion’s jersey on.
“We’ll keep fighting in the next few stages. The second and third [stages] are ideal for sprinters so obviously they are goals. As for the yellow jersey, it should stay on the back of a sprinter, so it should be OK.”
Stage two will see the peloton tackle a 200.5km route from Vimory to Cerilly.
Paris-Nice 2013 – stage one – result
1) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ 4:47:24 hours
2) Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida – same time
3) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cycling
4) Jens Debusschere (BEL) Lotto-Belisol
5) Heinrich Haussler (AUS) – IAM Cycling
6) Mark Renshaw (AUS) – Blanco Pro Cycling
7) Jose Joaquin Rojas (SPA) – Movistar
8) Leigh Howard (AUS) – Orica-GreenEDGE
9) Borut Bozic (SLO) – Astana
10) Romain Feillu (FRA) – Vacansoleil-DCM
1) Nacer Bouhanni (FRA) – FDJ – 4:51:01 hours
2) Damien Gaudin (FRA) – Europcar – same time
3) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +1″
4) Lieuwe Westra (NED) – Vacansoleil-DCM – same time
5) Elia Viviani (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cycling
6) Alessandro Petacchi (ITA) – Lampre-Merida +2″
7) Wilco Kelderman (NED) – Blanco Pro Cycling – same time
8) Geoffrey Soupe (FRA) – FDJ
9) Peter Velits (SVK) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +3″
10) Tony Gallopin (FRA) – RadioShack-Leopard – same time