Chris Froome lost time on leader Michal Kwiatkowski at the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland as home favourite Michael Albasini sprinted to victory on a shortened first stage.
Team Sky rider Froome was caught on the wrong side of a split in the peloton close to the line in Sion and finished four seconds behind yellow jersey-wearer Kwiatkowski.
Albasini prevailed in a reduced-bunch finish after a late attack from Thomas Voeckler fell agonisingly short. Kwiatkowski followed on the same time in 12th place, with Froome crossing the line in 26th.
Despite falling to 14 seconds off the lead, the Briton climbs to tenth place overall, while bonus seconds mean Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) rises to second overall, five seconds adrift of Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step).
The stage was shortened from 200.9km to 88.5km due to heavy snow on the 2,000m-high Simplonpass early in the day.
Froome told teamsky.com afterwards: “Having seen the weather conditions I was pretty glad we didn’t go over there in the end. It was pretty rough up there, getting into minus figures and completely snowed up.
"I think the organisers made a good decision not to go over there but from a racing perspective it’s a shame. It’s a big climb and it would have been good to test the legs a bit up there and thin out the bunch a bit before the final.
“It was good to be out there and stretch the legs again. It was quite grippy up on the final and it was interesting to see so many people dropped after only a 88km stage. It was pretty tough up there which was good.”
The amendment to the route meant the only climb the riders had to climb was the late, category-two ascent to Lens.
The race favourites stayed together on the climb, but a virtuoso display of descending down the other side from Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) saw the Italian open up a gap of 25 seconds on the rest of the field by the time the road finally flattened back out around 8km from the finish.
Nibali tried to time-trial his way to Sion, but with the chasing pack containing a large number of strong riders, he was caught with 1.7km to go.
Voeckler (Europcar) launched a more decisive-looking attack with 1km remaining and although he rounded the final corner with daylight to his nearest rivals, he was caught and passed with less than 100m remaining as Albasini gave the Swiss fans a home winner.
Stage one result
1 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge, 2:11:11
2 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar, same time
3 Ramunas Navardauskas (Lit) Garmin-Sharp, st
4 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana, st
5 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp, st
6 Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling, st
7 Rui Costa (Por) Movistar, st
8 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Belkin, st
9 Bjorn Thurau (Ger) Europcar, st
10 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Europcar, st
12 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, st
26 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +4secs
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, 2:17:33
2 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge, +5secs
3 Ramunas Navardauskas (Lit) Garmin-Sharp, same time
4 Jesus Herrada (Spa) Movistar, +6
5 Matthias Brandle (Aut) IAM Cycling, +7
6 Rohan Dennis (Aus) Garmin-Sharp, +8
7 Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step, +9
8 Martijn Keizer (Ned) Belkin, +13
9 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) FDJ, st
10 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +14