Surprise race leader says his track background helped him on today's short parcours...

Europcar's Damien Gaudin is the surprise leader of Paris-Nice following today's Prologue on a short, 2.9 kilometre course in Houilles which saw only 10 seconds separate the top ten finishers. The previous rider on the course, French national champion Sylvain of Omega Pharma-Qiuck Step, had set what was the quickest time just moments before, and finished second. Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil-DCM, overral runner-up last year to Bradley Wiggins, was third.

The 26-year-old Gaudin, who comes from the small town of Beaupréau around 30 kilometres east of Nantes, said: "It's my first win a s a pro. It's just mad. I've been waiting for this for six years. Every year at the end of the season, I was telling myself. It went well, only a win is missing."

He revealed that he'd been selected for this race partly with the view of targeting today's Prologue. "I'm doing pretty well this season, the whole team does, so much so that the team directors struggled to pick a team for Paris-Nice.

"They put a little bit of pressure on me, asking me to come with the prologue in  mind. Since my second place in the Tour of Luxembourg prologue two years ago, I was looking for a great result in this discipline."

He added that his track background had helped him on today's short parcours."I'm a several times French pursuit champion and I know how to prepare for this type of efforts. I took many risks because I knew there was something to do today since Fabian Cancellara or Lars Boom were not here."

With the first categorised climbs not coming until Wednesday's Stage 3, Gaudin is hopeful of holding onto the jersey for at least a couple of days. "Now I count on my mates to help me keep this jersey for a while. I can tell you one thing. I won't have it in Nice, but I'll hold it tomorrow at the start, and hopefully at the finish."

You can find our race preview with details of the forthcoming stages here.

Paris-Nice Prologue result

1.  GAUDIN Damien       Europcar                    03' 37''
2.  CHAVANEL Sylvain    Omega Pharma-Quick Step  at 00' 01''
3.  WESTRA Lieuwe       Vacansoleil-DCM          at 00' 01''
4.  KELDERMAN Wilco     Blanco                   at 00' 02''
5.  SOUPE Geoffrey      FDJ                      at 00' 02''
6.  VELITS Peter        Omega Pharma-Quick Step  at 00' 03''
7.  GALLOPIN Tony       RadioShack-Leopard       at 00' 03''
8.  BOZIC Borut152      Astana                   at 00' 03''
9.  TURGOT Sébastien    Europcar                 at 00' 04''
10. GRIVKO Andriy       Astana                   at 00' 05''
11. VIVIANI Elia        Cannondale               at 00' 05''
12. HERRADA Jose        Movistar                 at 00' 05''
13. MAES Nikolas        Omega Pharma-Quick Step  at 00' 05''
14. LEMOINE Cyril       Sojasun                  at 00' 05''
15. COSTA Rui           Movistar                 at 00' 06''
16. BONNET William      FDJ                      at 00' 06''
17. MEERSMAN Gianni     Omega Pharma-Quick Step  at 00' 06''
18. KRISTOFF Alexander  Katusha                  at 00' 06''
19. GESINK Robert       Blanco                   at 00' 06''
20. SMUKULIS Gatis      Katusha                  at 00' 07''

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.