Edvald Boasson Hagen was third behind Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) on the first stage proper of the Tour de France.
Slovakian Sagan came out on top on the uphill and technical finish to the 198-kilometres stage from Liege to Seraing as Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) took second place to retain the race leader's yellow jersey.
Cancellara attacked a third of the way up the final 2.4km ascent to the finish, with only Sagan initially able to go with him.
But Boasson Hagen bridged the gap and the trio were clear with 500m to go, before Sagan landed the spoils and a first Tour stage win of his career on his debut appearance.
Bradley Wiggins remains second on the overall standings, seven seconds behind Cancellara, after he negotiated the final climb well to finish alongside defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) on the same time as the front three.
Evans moved up from 13th to eighth overall, but remains 17 seconds behind Cancellara and 10 adrift of Wiggins.
Boasson Hagen is still in fifth, a place and a second behind the white jersey of Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing).
Team Principal Dave Brailsford said of Wiggins: "It was a good effort. All in all it was important that Brad didn't lose any time.
"He was quite confident. We'd had a look that on the climb he could cruise up. It was easier to move up on a climb than it was on the flat.
"He just waited for that and moved up very easily on the climb."
Turning his attention to Boasson Hagen, he added: "Eddy was always going to go for the stage.
"I think he bridged across really, really well but by the time he got there I think he just about ran out of legs."
Yellow and green battles
Team Sky were wearing yellow helmets as leaders of the team classification and they continue to lead the way in those standings, with Michael Rogers and Kanstantsin Siutsou also finishing in the front group.
However Rogers had needed to work himself back into contention after being caught up in a crash with 23km remaining.
Not quite so fortunate was team-mate Chris Froome who suffered a puncture with around 10km to go and, despite battling hard and with the assistance of team-mate Richie Porte, crossed the line in 95th, 1:25 down.
Meanwhile Cancellara tops the green jersey standings by six points from Sagan, while world champion Mark Cavendish picked up his first points of the race at the intermediate sprint.
He collected eight points after being the second member of the peloton over the line with 81.5km to go, with Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) just ahead of him.
After the stage we caught up with Sports Director Sean Yates who reflected on a tough stage which saw some unfortunate time-loss for Froome.
He said: “Bradley was able to stay out of trouble which was the main thing today. It was good to see Edvald up there to take a good result at the finish.
“Froomey was unlucky to puncture just at the wrong moment as we hit the waterfront along the river. It was lined out going 70k an hour. Richie waited along with Christian. By the time they came back to the convoy riders were getting shelled. It was not possible to get back on. Riders were all over the place.
“Mick also came down but managed to get back for the finish. It was a good effort from the team up to that point. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about bits of bad luck like that.”
Yohann Gene (Europcar) had led a six-man breakaway group at the intermediate sprint to claim 20 points, with Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun), Maxime Bouet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), who leads the first mountains classification, also in the day's big escape.
They had gone clear from the off and, despite being held up by a level crossing after 24km, they were able to extend their advantage to just under five minutes.
However with RadioShack-Nissan controlling the chase the gap came down rapidly in the closing stages and they were caught with just under 10km remaining.
BMC Racing and Orica-GreenEDGE then both moved to the fore late on but the first big attack off the front came from Chavanel with 2km to go.
He was soon reeled in and it was the next counter-attack from Cancellara which proved to be the defining move as he, Sagan and Boasson Hagen took centre stage.