Jason Tesson (St Michel-Auber 93) took out the opening stage of the Boucles de la Mayenne, coming from behind to snatch the first leader's jersey from Bram Welton (Groupama-FDJ).
The Dutch rider narrowly held off a late surge from another Continental rider, Thomas Boudat (GO Sport-Roubaix Lille Métropole), who had to settle for third on the stage.
The victory is Tesson's second of the season after he won a stage of the 4 Jours de Dunkerque and the final points classification.
With the time bonus, the 24-year-old leads the race after stage 1 by four seconds over Welton, while breakaway rider Lindsay De Vylder (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) earned enough time bonuses on course to sit third, also at four seconds.
How it unfolded
The peloton quickly nullified the first attack by Umberto Marengo (Drone Hopper-Androni Giocattoli), Arjen Livyns (Bingoal-Pauwels Sauces-WB), Juan Antonio Lopez-Cozar Jaimez (Burgos-BH), Antonio Jesùs Soto (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Joshua Huppertz (Team Lotto-Kern Haus) in the opening kilometres.
However, another move soon went clear, this time with Joey Rosskopf (Human Powered Health), Eugenio Sanchez Lopez (Equipo Kern Pharma) and Angel Madrazo (Burgos-BH).
This trio was chased by Livyns, Lindsay De Vylder (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Maël Guégan (Team U Nantes Atlantique), who made the catch before the first classified climb of the day.
Rosskopf led the six-man move over the Le Pas de Pierre and the peloton let the gap continue to go out until it reached 4:30 before the first sprint.
De Vylder won that bonus with 127km to go, while Cofidis came to the fore to bring the gap down.
De Vylder again led the breakaway at the next prime, an unnamed climb with 101km to go, and the third climb, the Côte de la Baconnière, with 46mk to go.
By that point, the bunch had reduced their lead to two minutes. The leaders entered the finishing circuit with a healthy gap, and De Vylder claimed the second intermediate sprint with 25km and the penultimate climb, the first traverse of the Côte de Saint-Jean-de-Mayenne, with 20km to go.
But the gap began to fall rapidly when Livyns punctured out of the lead group as the gap hovered at 30 seconds with 19km to go.
With one lap to go, the leaders had only 21 seconds ahead of the Uno-X led peloton and it seemed their chances were evaporating.
With 11km to go, the peloton was hot on the breakaway's heels and the lead group fell apart as Rosskopf pushed on. The US national champion got into his time trial position to try to stay away but was finally brought back by the B&B Hotels-KTM peloton with 6.8km remaining.
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Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks.
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