Dexter Gardias got his 2018 Rás Tailteann charge off to an encouraging start with fifth in the opening stage on Sunday.
The Canyon Eisberg man was part of a 10-man breakaway which narrowly held off the chasing pack to the finish in Athlone.
Cyrille Thiery, of the Swiss national team, sprinted to victory while Gardias, 27, was just pipped to fourth in the kick for the line.
Thiery was also the first man to get his hands on the mountain jersey after winning both KOMs in the 137km opening stage out of Drogheda.
Irishman Damien Shaw, riding for Holdsworth, won both sprints but, courtesy of his stage win, Thiery heads the points classification, too.
Gardias completed his fourth top-10 stage finish in the Rás seconds before the peloton sprinted for the minor places, with Matt Nowell taking a superb 14th on the line.
Rory Townsend, Max Stedman and Louis Rose-Davies were all safe and sound in the bunch, 23 seconds down on the winner.
Gardias will begin Monday’s second stage – a 149km dash from Athlone to Tipperary – in sixth place in the general classification at 16 seconds, with the main field at 35 seconds.
After they had rolled out of Drogheda at 12.30pm, the peloton hit the first KOM, in Slane, after 14km. And with a breakaway yet to establish, Thiery took the points.
He was followed over the top by Lindsay de Vylder, of the Belgian national team, and the Wales Racing Academy’s Daniel Coombe.
After more than 44km was covered in the opening hour of racing, the break finally escaped from the clutches of the main bunch.
Countless attacks had failed before Gardias went clear with 10 companions, although one beat a swift retreat soon afterwards.
Gardias had Shaw, Swiss duo Thiery and Claudio Imhof, Ireland’s Jake Gray, Robbe Ghys, of the Belgian squad, and Saint Piran’s Will Harper for company.
The group was completed by Luuc Bugter, from Dutch outfit Delta Cycling, and Benjamin Wolfe, of American squad Jelly Belly.
Thiery confirmed his position as the early leader of the mountains classification with victory in the second KOM in Rochfortbridge from Shaw and Gray.
The aggressive Shaw, meanwhile, took each of the sprints in Rochfortbridge and Kilbeggan from Wolfe and Thiery, respectively. Gardias was third in the latter.
With 20km to go the breakaway held a 90-second advantage over the peloton and that margin had only been halved when the stage powered into its final 5km.
The gap proved too much for the likes of the German Bike Aid team and Gardias’ team-mates to bring back and the escapees had victory at their mercy.
Thiery ultimately sprinted clear to clinch the win and the first leader’s jersey, with Bugter and Ghys second and third respectively. Click here for the full result.