Spaniard Alejandro Valverde outpaced specialist sprinter Thor Hushovd of Norway on Monday to win the first stage of the Dauphine Libere cycle race.
The Caisse D'Epargne rider prevailed in an uphill mass dash for the line in the 194 kilometer stage from Avignon to Privas. German Bjorn Schroder finished third.
Hushovd is now the overall leader, one second ahead of Valverde. Overnight leader Levi Leipheimer of the United States slipped to third, five seconds further back.
"I can always do well at uphill sprints," Valverde, the winner of this year's Liege-Bastogne-Liege Classic, told reporters.
"The key thing was not to lose my head in the last seven kilometers, they were really manic. But the team kept me close to the front and kept the pace high and I could win."
Hushovd, who was second in Sunday's opening prologue, said he could not have done any more.
"Alejandro was just that little bit stronger. The good news on Tuesday is I'll have another chance, that stage should be a sprint too," he said.
Valverde said the bunch sprint reminded him of his first stage win in Soria during the 2004 Tour of Spain.
"That had a long, draggy, uphill finish too, it was very similar. I have to thank my team for putting me where I needed to be to win again," he said.
The Dauphine Libre finishes in Grenoble on Sunday.