Slovakian Peter Sagan of the Liquigas team won the first stage in the Three Days of La Panne after outsprinting Italians Jacopo Guarnieri and Fabio Sabatini on Tuesday.
Sagan, one of several contenders for victory in the Tour of Flanders – the second major classic of the season on Sunday – will wear the leader’s jersey in the 216.1km second stage between Zottegem and Coxyde on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old Slovak, who holds a four-second lead over Guarnieri, said he was in good shape and hoped to profit from that in Sunday’s classic.
“I’m in great condition,” said Sagan.
“I hope to use this to my advantage on Sunday. Will I be a contender for victory there? We shall see. I hope to win it and I feel capable of achieving that.”
The stage itself was a useful dress rehearsal for the Tour of Flanders as it took in several of the climbs and cobbled stone sections of the race.
The race itself was marked by several attacks, the most notable by Kazakh rider Dimitri Muaravyev.
It came to an end three kilometres from the finish as he was reeled in by around 40 riders thanks largely to the efforts of French rider Sylvain Chavanel.