Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) won a sprint finish for the first stage of the Dauphine Libere into Privas, France on Monday.
Valverde beat Norway's Thor Hushovd of Credit Agricole with Germany's Bjorn Schroder taking third place after the 194km run from Avignon.
Three riders, including French duo Sebastien Joly and Arnaud Labbe and Germany's Christian Kux, had lead a long breakaway from early in the race, building up a lead of four minutes before being caught 12km from the line.
Valverde remained comfortably in the peloton for the last few kilometres and waited till the last minute to attack with several hundred metres to go on the slight incline towards the line.
Valverde, virtually unbeatable on this type of finish, looked forward confidently to next month's Tour de France.
"It's been a good year for us, I have been training very well. It's very difficult to win but I would say I'm among the best five riders," he said. Hushovd said he could not get into the right position for the dash to the line.
"I couldn't do anything when he (Valverde) made his move because I was blocked with 500m to go," the Norwegian added.
Hushovd leads Valverde by one second in the overall standings. American Levi Leipheimer, who won Sunday's prologue time trial, lies sixth overall.
For a complete report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008