Alexander Vinokourov took the lead in the Dauphine Libere after a trademark time-trial display in Wednesday's third stage in Anneyron.
"Vino" is riding into ominous form ahead of the Tour de France
The 33-year-old rode the 40.7km nine seconds faster than his fellow Kazakh and Astana team-mate Andrey Kashechkin.
American Dave Zabriskie was third, 38 seconds adrift of Vinokourov, who confirmed his Tour de France pedigree.
Overnight leader Christophe Moreau finished 25th, 2:53 back, while Scot David Millar was 10th, 1:36 behind.
Vinokourov, who won the Dauphine in 1999, has a two-second advantage over Kashechkin in the overall standings, with Zabriskie 32 seconds adrift. Levi Leipheimer of the US, last year's winner, is sixth, 63 seconds behind.
Already one of the favourites for next month's Tour, Vinokourov said he was pleased with his win, his first against the clock since he took a time trial on his way to winning the 2006 Vuelta.
"The Dauphine is always a great test for the Tour de France, and this shows I'm on track for July," he said.
I've fixed a single objective, a single rule - win the Tour
"I can't say it was a surprise, I was motivated and when I clocked the fastest time at the first checkpoint, I decided to go all out.
"You can't win the Tour without winning time trials, so this is an excellent omen."
Claiming to be in the form of his life, "Vino" added that he believes the numbers are also on his side to win this year's Tour.
"In 2002, 2004, 2006, which were even numbers, I couldn't race the Tour," he said. "In 2003 and 2005 it worked well. I hope this time will be the one."
But he refused to talk about his eviction from last year's race, the day before the prologue in Strasbourg, when the Astana team did not have enough riders to compete because of the Operation Puerto doping scandal.
"I had my revenge two months later at the Vuelta," said the Tour of Spain winner.
"But it's true that gives additional motivation. Everyone has me as the favourite. I've been preparing 100% since the beginning of December. I've fixed a single objective, a single rule - win the Tour."
He then hinted that he may give up his team leader status and work for Kashechkin for the rest of the Dauphine.
"It would give him a good morale boost if he won here, just like I did when I was younger," Vinokourov said.
"My only dream now is to win the Tour. We'll see if he can take over on tomorrow's stage on the Mont Ventoux."
Vinokourov has already won a stage on Ventoux, in 2005, and said his targets in this year's race were the time trial and Saturday's stage in the Alps.
The eight-day Dauphine Libere finishes on Sunday in Annecy.