Sprint specialist Thor Hushovd won the 231km first stage of the Dauphine Libere between Megeve and Bron.
Hushvod wants to challenge for Pettachi's sprint crown
The Norwegian, winner of seven races this season, edged out Stuart O'Grady and Samuel Dumoulin in Lyon.
Iban Mayo, winner of Sunday's prologue, retained the overall lead ahead of Tyler Hamilton and Lance Armstrong.
Credit Agricole's Hushovd said: "This win makes me believe I can compete for the sprinter's green jersey in the Tour de France."
He added: "I know Alessandro Petacchi is the best sprinter in the world, but I'm better in the hills than he is."
Armstrong, bidding for an unprecedented sixth Tour de France victory next month, is two seconds down on Mayo in the overall standings.
Tuesday's second stage takes the riders 181 km to St Etienne.
Stage one results:
1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 6hrs 3mins 47secs
2. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis
3. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) AG2r Prevoyance
4. Baden Cooke (Aus) Fdjeux.com
5. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
6. Jerome Pineau (Fra) Brioches La Boulangere
7. Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) AG2r Prevoyance
8. Pedro Horrillo (Spa) Quick Step-Davitamon
9. Jose Enrique Guttierez (Spa) Phonak
10. Inaki Isasi (Spa) Euskaltel
Leading overall standings:
1. Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel 6.11:38
2. Tyler Hamilton (US) Phonak one second behind
3. Lance Armstrong (US) US Postal 2
4. Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak same time
5. Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step-Davitamon 6
6. Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Phonak same time
7. Cyril Dessel (Fra) Phonak 8
8. Jose Enrique Guttierez (Spain) Phonak 9
9. Thor Hushovd (Norway) Credit Agricole 10
10. Stuart O'Grady (Australia) Cofidis