Dutchman Lars Boom handled a tricky course and freezing conditions better than the rest of the field to win the 8-kms Paris-Nice prologue in Montfort-lâ€™Amaury much to everybodyâ€™s surprise.
The former cyclo-cross world champion won in 10:56, ahead of Germanyâ€™s Jens Voigt, the old man of the peloton, and American Levi Leipheimer.
Pre-race favourite Alberto Contador, the 2007 overall winner who dominated last yearâ€™s opener, had to be content with fourth place, six seconds adrift.
Young and fast
The start took place at 13:40 in extremely cold conditions (3Â°). Dutchman Roy Curvers (Skil Shimano) was the first to complete the course in 13:02.
Spainâ€™s Xavier Tondo Volpini (Cervelo) was the first serious pace-setter in 11:06.
The time was beaten by Slovakiaâ€™s Peter Sagan, the youngest rider in the bunch at 20, who also clocked in 11:06.
Fastest on the hill among the early starters was Dutchman Jos Van Emden (Rabobank) in 2:28. He was dislodged by Italyâ€™s Marco Marcato (VAC). Their time was later bettered for one second by Dutch cyclo-cross champion Lars Boom.
The Rabobank rider, 24, was also the first and only man under 11 minutes on the course, with 10:56. Boomâ€™s time gradually proved unassailable and favourites for overall victory like Frank Schleck (11:44) or Alejandro Valverde (11:25) failed to come close. Even specialists like Levi Leipheimer (11:02), David Millar (11:07) or Samuel Sanchez (11:11) were unable to challenge Boomâ€™s time.
Pre-race favourite Alberto Contador, winner of last yearâ€™s opener, had to be content with 11:02, six seconds behind the Rabobank rider.
Finally, Boom retained top spot ahead of Jens Voigt, the prologue winner in 2005 and the oldest man in the bunch, with Leipheimer third ahead of the Tour de France champion.
Boom also took the first polka-dot jersey and the first white jerseys in the race and confirmed he was one of the sportâ€™s brightest prospects.
I gave everything I had knowing this was a course for me, with a little climb at the start and a fast hard, flat course afterwards. I expected a good time but maybe not that good. To beat riders like Contador, Sanchez and the rest is just fabulous. My best result to date was winning a Vuelta stage. Now Iâ€™m hoping to retain the yellow jersey in the next couple of days knowing that with the first climbs, itâ€™ll be hard to stay with the best.
Dutchman Lars Boom (Rabobank) causes a sensation by winning the 8-kms prologue in 10:56.
Jens Voigt, the prologue winner in 2005, is still a rider to take into account at 39. He is second in 10:59.
Winner of the prologue last year, Alberto Contador is currently third, six seconds behind Lars Boom!
Czech Roman Kreuziger is 6th fastest in 11:11. The former Tour of Switzerland and Tour de Romandie winner is 13 seconds behind Lars Boom and is also beaten by his young comaptriot and team-mate Peter Sagan.
Fastest on the hill after all riders have now climbed it, Lars Boom will take the first polka dot jersey in this Paris-Nice.