Max Stedman’s defence of the Tour of Quanzhou Bay is finely poised ahead of the Queen stage on Saturday.
The Canyon Eisberg climber rode to a superb ninth spot on a fast and furious 81km opening stage in China.
He rolled over the line in an escape group of 21, which also included his team-mate Ryan Christensen in 17th, as the three-day race got under way on Friday.
The Kiwi had worked tirelessly to keep the chasing peloton at bay and succeeded with the main bunch finishing 41 seconds adrift.
Rory Townsend took sixth in the sprint from that group (27th overall), while Charles Page was 82nd on the same time.
Stedman and Christensen trail race leader Kaden Groves by 10 seconds, courtesy of the bonuses the Mitchelton-BikeExchange rider collected for clinching the stage win.
Dutchmen Roy Eefting (Memil-CCN) and Ivar Slik (Monkey Town) completed the podium places on day one.
Yonathan Monsalve, who finished third on a stage of the 2015 Giro d’Italia, and Aussie Marcus Culey, who was fourth to Stedman last season, were also in the lead group.
Stage two of the UCI 2.2 contest, set in China’s Fujian Province, climaxes with a summit finish at the end of an 8.5km climb.
Stedman will be determined to repeat his victory on the stage last season and wrest the blue jersey from the shoulders of Groves.
Click here for the full result of stage one and the standings ahead of the Saturday’s crucial second stage.