Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-Quick Step) surprised everyone at the head of the peloton by launching his sprint well before anyone else and holding his speed to the line to win Paris-Tours at a canter.
The Colombian prodigy went on the right hand side of the road with about 600m to go while the rest of the lead sprinters were focussed on the left-side.
The race’s other fast men tried their best to catch Gaviria, who will contest the World Championships road race next Sunday, but could only watch as he soloed over the line in Tours.
Organisers ASO attracted a stellar field by increasing the distance of the 2016 race and removing the flurry of hills in the final 20 kilometres to make it the perfect warm-up to the World Championships road race.
Plenty of big-name sprinters were present, including Gaviria, Mark Cavendish, Tom Boonen, Caleb Ewan and Arnaud Démare, all of whom will be in Doha next Sunday looking to win the rainbow stripes.
Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet, who will race for Belgium next week, put in an attack on the route’s only real climb, but the flat parcours on the other side of the hill meant that his move was quickly brought back by the peloton chasing down the original breakaway.
Two riders did get out ahead in the final 15km, with Katusha‘s Sergey Lagutin and Giant-Alpecin’s Bert de Backer trying their hand and hanging about 20m off the front of the peloton.
Cofidis were the ones working hard on the front for Nacer Bouhanni alongside Lotto-Soudal, who had several riders who could contest the final sprint. IAM Cycling and Team Sky were also busy heading into the final seven kilometres as the peloton brought back the two escapees.
French team Cofidis ceded control in the final 1,500m to Team Sky, with Geoffrey Soupe not noticing the blue and black jerseys pass him on the right. New Sky signing Owain Doull took to the front to lead Elia Viviani out in his first race for the British team.
The Olympic team pursuit champion ran out of puff in the home straight, though, and as Gaviria sped off the front of the pack on the other side of the road Viviani and the other sprinters found themselves on the back foot.
The Colombian’s move took the rest of the peloton by surprise, with the Etixx man opening up a 20m gap in the home straight and carrying his power to the line to take his seventh win of the season.
Paris-Tours 2016 result (252km)
1. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Etixx-Quick Step, 5-22-03
2. Arnaud Démare (Fra) FDJ
3. Jonas van Genechten (Bel) IAM Cycling
4. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Etixx-Quick Step
5. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Direct Energie
6. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
7. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
8. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto-Soudal
9. Luka Mezgec (Slo) Orica-BikeExchange
10. Jempy Drucker (Lux) BMC, all same time