Tour de France champion Cadel Evans has sprinted into Saint-Vallier to claim the first stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné and move to second overall behind Britain's Bradley Wiggins.
The 35 year old BMC team rider covered the 187 kilometres from Seyssins in a time of 4:36:21 leading Frenchman Jerome Coppel (Saur - Sojasun) and Kazakh Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) across the line ahead of a fast finishing peloton that came in four seconds behind the breakaway trio.
"It's a bit of a surprise to win so soon but it's obviously a good surprise," said Evans. "It's good for me and for the team. We come to the Dauphine every year for a test, to work together and get into the rhythm of competition.
“I’m a racer and I like to race. A lot of things needed to go my way today but sometimes you make things go your way.”
The stage featured six climbs and it was on the descent of the final climb, six kilometres from the finish, that Evans, Coppel and Kashechkin broke clear.
“It was a bit of a difficult descent, quite narrow," explained Evans. "I slipped into a little move which collaborated well enough to just hold off the group."
The Victorian worked hard to make sure of that, driving the trio over the final kilometres before launching his sprint from the front and holding off his rivals to win the stage.
"I took some speed through the last corner which was enough for a white cow (stuffed toy), and a good rewarding confidence boost for my (BMC) boys," said Evans after the stage presentation.
"Yeah, I won a cow....not a mooing, pooing one," he tweeted later of the 'prize' he'll take home for his young son.
West Australian Luke Durbridge (Orica GreenEDGE) went into to the stage as the leader after his win in the prologue time trial but lost contact with the main bunch on the last climb.