Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) held his nerve to win stage one of the Critérium du Dauphiné after a bunch sprint finish.
The Belgian edged out Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers) inside the final 200m after sitting on the British rider's wheel on the run-in to the line.
A promising ride from American Sean Quinn (EF Education-EasyPost) saw him take third place.
Van Aert's victory means he secures the yellow leader's jersey at the beginning of the eight-day race where his teammate Primož Roglič will be eyeing overall victory.
The sprint victory is the Belgian national champion's fourth win of 2022, after a spring classics season hit by covid-19 and a lack of fitness.
HOW IT HAPPENED
It was a hilly parcour for the opening stage of the 74th Critérium du Dauphiné – with many riders looking to test their legs ahead of next month’s Tour de France.
Stage one offered up a testing 191.8km route from La Voulte-sur-Rhône to Beauchastel, the second longest in this year’s eight-day race.
Two early climbs, the Col de Leyrisse, averaging 4.2% for 10.3km, and the Côte des Baraques, at 6.6% for 3.3km, led the peloton into a 52km circuit which included two ascents of the Côte du Chambon de Bravas.
Despite being described as third-category ascent averaging 5.2% for 4.7km, the climb was deceptive, with the peloton also having to tackle the unclassified Col du Moulin à Vent soon after before they finally descended towards the finish line.
The steep tests to begin the stage played into the hands of the climbers looking to get into the break, so it came as little surprise that Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels-KTM) escaped up the road.
By 20km into the stage, the experienced French climber was joined by Maxime Bouet (Arkéa Samsic) and Laurens Huys (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux).
The trio of escapees had created a gap of three minutes by the time they summitted the Col de Leyrisse and the Côte des Baraques, with Rolland sweeping up the maximum number of mountains points.
Just 40km into the race and there had already been two abandonments, Imanol Erviti (Movistar), who crashed in the neutral zone, and Niklas Märkl (Team DSM) had both stepped off their bikes.
Meanwhile, at the front of the race, the break had kept a steady two-minute gap back to the bunch as they reached the foot of the Côte du Chambon de Bravas for the first time.
Rolland was first over the top to secure the blue polka dot jersey at the end of the day, as Team BikeExchange-Jayco paced for their sprinter Dylan Groenewegen back in the pack.
There was a moment of concern for Rolland when he punctured shortly after the intermediate sprint was reached in Beauchastel with 57km remaining.
Fortunately for the 35-year-old though, he was able to catch back up to the leading duo just a few kilometres down the road.
Trek-Segafredo came to the front of the peloton at the base of the Côte du Chambon de Bravas for the final time.
Jasper Stuyven set a high tempo up the climb as his team looked to drop many of the favourites for the stage.
Groenewegen was joined by the likes of Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain-Victorious) and Juan Sebastián Molano (UAE Team Emirates) as sprinters to be dropped from the bunch.
With 32km to go, Rolland and Huys, the remaining escapees, were swiftly caught as the peloton finished climbing for the day.
As the race came back together, several counterattacks were launched and Mikkel Honoré (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) managed to force himself clear on descent.
However, Ineos Grenadiers came to the fore on the downhill and nullified the Dane’s attack with 22km left.
The gap to the chasing bunch of sprinters was beyond a minute by this point and Ineos, riding for their quick man Hayter, set an unrelenting pace.
Groenewegen’s teammates buried themselves in an attempt to bring him back into contact with the peloton, but they were still half a minute behind with 10km to go.
With 4km left, the chasing group’s hopes were dashed, and Remi Cavagna (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) looked to catch the bunch out with a late flyer only to be rapidly chased down.
Inside the flamme rouge and Ineos Grenadiers began to lead out Hayter with Filippo Ganna, however, van Aert was stuck to the British rider’s wheel.
Hayter began his sprint with 200m to go, but he couldn’t shake the Belgian national champion from his wheel.
Van Aert moved alongside Hayter with 100m to the line and once up to speed, the Jumbo-Visma rider looked in complete control as he edged clear and lifted his arms aloft in delight.
It was a perfect start for Jumbo-Visma, who come to this year’s race with a stacked squad hoping for overall glory as they ready themselves for Le Tour next month.
CRITÉRIUM DU DAUPHINÉ, STAGE ONE: La Voulte-sur-Rhône - Beauchastel (191.8KM)
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma in 4-37-31
2. Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
3. Sean Quinn (USA) EF Education-EasyPost
4. Hugo Page (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) TotalEnergies
6. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
7. Clément Venturini (Fra) AG2R Citroën
8. Maxim Van Gils (Bel) Lotto Soudal
9. Thomas Benjamin (Fra) Cofidis
10. Jannik Steimle (Ger) Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl all at same time
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE ONE
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma in 4-37-21
2. Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4 seconds
3. Sean Quinn (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at 6 secs
4. Maxime Bouet (Fra) Arkéa Samsic, at 7 secs
5. Laurens Huys (Bel) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 8 secs
6. Pierre Rolland (Fra) B&B Hotels-KTM, at 9 secs
7. Hugo Page (Fra) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, at 10 secs
8. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) TotalEnergies
9. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
10. Clément Venturini (Fra) AG2R Citroën all at same time
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