Chris Froome got his Criterium du Dauphine campaign under way with an assured ride on a tricky stage one circuit in Saint-Etienne.
The three-time race winner was alert as the peloton split apart on the final lap, crossing the line 15th amid a heavily reduced peloton.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) took the stage and the race lead by 44 seconds. The Belgian pushed clear of Axel Domont (Ag2r-La Mondiale) on the final ascent of the Cote de Rochetaillee, en route to a strong solo victory.
“It was a good stage and good for us to get that one out of the way without any major issues,” Froome explained after the race. “It’s my first day of racing since Romanide. Today was a good day to blow out the cobwebs and it was pretty grippy in the final there.
“Thomas De Gendt did well today and he’ll definitely hold onto the jersey for a few days. He’s obviously going well, but once we hit the big climbs I expect he’ll give up the jersey at one point.
“We did quite a bit of work early on, just to not let the break go too far, but it seemed like not many other people wanted to contribute until it was too late. For us it’s just about staying out of trouble, staying out of the wind and saving it for when it really matters.”