Mathew Hayman got the Tour de Luxembourg off to a good start after claiming fourth in the opening prologue.
The Australian powered around the 2.7-kilometre course, finishing with a flurry on the cobbled climb to clock a time of three minutes and 48 seconds.
Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun) replicated his winning performance from the same course in 2010 to get off to a winning start in the five-day event, clocking a time just five seconds quicker than Hayman on the city streets.
The Frenchman edged out Gregory Rast (RadioShack-Nissan) and team-mate Jonathan Hivert – both three seconds down – during an evening which saw fine margins decide the lead contenders.
The stage saw Alex Dowsett make his return from a broken elbow sustained during March’s 3 Days of West Flanders. The Brit, who received a late call-up to the race with Lars-Petter Nordaug recovering from illness, registering a 3:54 to place second quickest of the Team Sky runners, 17th overall.
Quick out of the blocks
A tough course with a technical downhill run followed by a lung-busting cobbled climb provided a tough start to proceedings with a brief burst of effort required.
Engoulvent was one of the early riders down the ramp and his time proved to be the benchmark the remainder of the field were aiming at as the light faded in Luxembourg-Ville.
Luke Rowe was another rider to go sub-four minutes on the night with a 3:57, while the rest of the eight-man squad were separated by less than three seconds.
The action continues on Thursday with the first road stage of the race, a 181km test which looks set to culminate in a bunch sprint into Hesperange.
Up and running
We caught up with Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist back at the team hotel after what was a solid start for the team.
He said “It was a good start for the guys and for Mathew. He is improving every year. He was fifth on this course last year. He did well on the cobbled climb which was the crucial part of the course. You win and lose the stage on there I think. It’s a tricky opening stage. It’s fast in places and it’s a tough effort for the riders.
“It was nice to welcome Alex back into the squad. He was another rider who improved on his performance from last year.
“Let’s see what happens but you’d imagine that tomorrow should end in a bunch sprint. There are a few climbs but nothing major. We have some fast guys here so we will give it a good go.”