Greg Henderson powered to a magnificent win on stage two of Paris-Nice, Team Sky's fifth victory of the season so far.
The New Zealander, who claimed the green points jersey, was set up brilliantly by teammate Geraint Thomas who surged to the front in the closing stages at the end of the 199 kilometres route from Monfort l'Amaury to Amilly.
The pair swooped past the HTC-Highroad train and Henderson then unleashed his finishing kick with 250 metres to go and proved strongest in what was a clean sprint to the line, with Matthew Goss (HTC-Highroad) in second and Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) third, just ahead of Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo), Peter Sagan (Liquigas) and Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil).
Henderson took the first stage proper in the race last year and was delighted to be back on the top step on the podium, saying: "It's always special to win at such an amazing race. I had a great lead-out from Geraint, he was just fantastic. He was just sitting there waiting and then away he went with 500 metres to go and I took off around 250 metres out.
"It was a really long sprint but I was lucky to hold the speed all the way to the line."
The Kiwi also made a point of dedicating his victory to the victims of the devastating earthquake in Christchurch and will auction his green jersey to raise money for for those affected in his home country.
Switch in focus
The time bonus for winning means Henderson is now in second on the general classification, four seconds behind first stage hero Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil). Tuesday's third stage sees the second category Cote de Becoup 23km from the finish and Henderson added: "I'll have a go tomorrow over that final climb and if I can make it then great but otherwise I'm in full support of Bradley Wiggins and Mick Rogers on the GC."
The stage had seen a two-man breakaway but Maxime Bouet (AG2R) and Tony Gallopin (Cofidis) never looked like staying clear despite plenty of small crashes in the peloton on what was a nervy day.
"I think everyone was a bit scared of the wind breaking the peloton to pieces," explained Henderson. "There were so many crashes in the space of about 10 kilometres, it was crazy. We just tried to stay near the front and out of trouble in the closing stages."
Full of belief
Sports Director Sean Yates was understandably full of praise for both Henderson and Thomas, saying: "Greg got a lot of confidence from the first stage when he said his legs felt good and he put out some good power. That showed today and it was a fine performance. G is in fine fettle too and when it comes to a lead-out like that, he's the man. He delivered him spot-on and it was a great effort."
Of the next stage from Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire to Nuits-Saint-Georges, Yates added: "It's going to be a test tomorrow. We know Greg isn't the greatest climber in the world but he's obviously going pretty good right now and the yellow jersey could be there for the taking if he can get over the late climb.
"So there's no shortage of incentive but at the end of the day it doesn't matter how motivated you are, if you are a sprinter and don't have it in your legs on a climb then there's not a lot you can do. But we'll go into the stage believing it's possible."