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Frenchman Damien Gaudin, riding for Europcar, won Sunday's Paris-Nice prologue, a 2.9km time trial around Houilles west of Paris.
Gaudin, a three-time French national pursuit champion, bagged the yellow jersey after seeing off compatriot Sylvain Chavanel by 0.56sec and Dutchman Lieuwe Westra as the 26-year-old garnered his first career win five years after turning professional.
Monday's first stage proper is a 195km ride from Saint-Germain-en-Laye to Nemours.
"I was fearful right down to the final moment and shaking when I saw Westra," admitted Gaudin, who finally held off the Dutchman by 0.65sec.
Up-and-coming Dutchman Wilco Kelderman, 21, was fourth at 2sec while US racer Tejay Van Garderen finished 11sec off the pace after a conservative showing on an urban route with plenty of sharp bends.
Belgium's Maxime Monfort, a potential contender for the overall Paris-Nice crown, meanwhile had a nightmare start as he lost 40sec after crashing on a bend.