Michael Rogers claimed eighth place in the opening prologue as the 3 Days of West Flanders got under way.
The Australian made his return to racing after a break following the Tour Down Under and clocked a time of eight minutes and 13 seconds on the six-kilometre course.
That time proved good enough for eighth, 13 seconds back in a congested leaderboard heading into two tough days on unforgiving Flandrian roads.
One of the early riders out on course, Alex Dowsett held the lead for a long period after putting in a strong time of 8:19 over the out-and-back course.
The British national time trial champion eventually wound up 12th, and tweeted afterwards: “Well that hurt! Haven’t ever blown with 500m to go in a tt before, safe to say I got everything out.”
The stage win eventually fell to Michal Kwiatkowski, the young Pole setting a time of eight minutes flat on the prologue drag along the coast in Middelkerke to pull on the race leader's jersey.
Kwiatkowski led home Omega Pharma-Quickstep team-mate Julien Vermote by a margin of four seconds while Robert Wagner (RadioShack-Nissan) rounded out the podium.
With the top 20 riders all sitting within 22 seconds of the lead the GC remains wide open heading into Saturday’s 181.5km test from Brugge to Bellegem.
Hard day’s effort
The team got the day off a strong start and occupied three of the top 10 placings early on with Dowsett enduring a nervous wait to see where his leading time would stack up.
After the stage Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist was content with the day’s result, saying: “It was a good start for Mick - his first race in Europe and his first race for a while. Alex was up there too. The wind changed a little bit for him and I’m not sure how much that affected the results but we don’t want to make an excuse there.
“All in all the guys did a good TT. Of course we were hoping for places further up but the guys are looking good. We’ll get stuck in for the next two days.
“The race was the same last year. The weather looks okay which makes it easier to control things on the front. We’ll not give up without a fight and we’ll hatch a plan for the next two days.
“The time differences aren’t that big so no one can let a group go too far. There’s some sprinters’ teams here too so it will be full-on racing with the cobbled climbs.”