Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) pulled of something of a surprise on the opening day of the 2016 Paris-Nice, taking victory in the 6.1km prologue in his first race of the season.
The Australian has once again opted for a late start to the season but showed no signs of rustiness as he powered through the relatively flat course on the very outskirts of Paris in a time of 7:39.
He went one second quicker than time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) and two seconds faster than New Zealand time trial champion Patrick Bevin (Cannondale). Matthews now leads the race overall ahead of that pair.
The short course in Conflans-SainteHonrine looked pan flat on paper but after an opening stretch along the river Seine, the road turned sharply round to the left and kicked up, with most riders having to get out of the saddle. It was mostly flat thereafter but matters were complicated by five 90-degree turns and rain for the earlier starters.
As was to be expected from such a short time trial, there were no huge gaps between the general classification contenders, though Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) did open up nine seconds on 2010 champion Alberto Contador, who he beat at the Volta ao Algarve last month.
Ion Izaguirre, second at Algarve, finished fifth, six seconds down on Matthews and one second ahead of Thomas. Richie Porte (BMC) finished 10 seconds back to take six seconds on Contador, who was also beaten by two seconds by his teammate Rafal Majka.
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