Vacansoleil-DCM's Marco Marcato won the 106th edition of the Paris-Tours classic in a sprint finish in the French town of Tours.
Marcato, 28, edged out Laurens De Vreese (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) and Niki Terpstra of Omega Pharma-QuickStep on the line.
“This is by far the greatest victory in my career," said Mercato. "The team believed in me and I am very grateful for the work they did. It is amazing to start the winter with such a great final result.”
An 11 rider break containing Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Michael Hepburn (Orica-GreenEDGE), Jerome Pineau (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Gatis Smukulis (Katusha), Laszlo Bodrogi (Team Type 1), Arnaud Gerard (FDJ-BigMat), Koen De Kort (Argos-Shimano), Yannick Talabardon (Saur-Sojasun) and the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank pair of Karsten Kroon and Michael Morkov, quickly rode out to a lead of 4min 50sec.
The AG2R, Vacansoleil-DCM and Garmin-Sharp teams then began the fight back while up front the break started to lose its shape. Pineau, Bodrogi, Kelderman and Hepburn were the first to drop back while Morkov continued on his own with 40km to go.
With all but Morkov back in the peloton a seven man group containing Marcato, De Vreese and Terpstra counter-attacked and bridged to the solo Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank rider.
With 10km left to ride, Marcato, De Vreese and Terpstra accelerated away from their companions and managed to hold to a slim lead on a chasing group of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano), Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Jakob Fuglsang (RadioShack-Nissan), to the finish.
Second in last year’s edition of Paris-Tours behind Van Avermaet, Marcato then won a closely contested sprint with De Vreese to claim the biggest victory of his career on the Avenue de Grammont.
Paris-Tours: 235.5km, Chateauneuf-en-Thymerais to Tours
1 Marco Marcato (ITA) Vacansoleil-DCM 4hr 50min 34sec
2 Laurens De Vreese (BEL) Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator
3 Niki Terpstra (NED) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
4 John Degenkolb (GER) Argos-Shimano 0:00:06
5 Laurent Pichon (FRA) Bretagne-Schuller 0:00:12
6 Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) BMC
7 Bjorn Leukemans (BEL) Vacansoleil-DCM
8 Jonathan Hivert (FRA) Saur-Sojasun 0:00:19
9 Jens Keukeleire (BEL) Orica GreenEDGE
10 Zdenek Stybar (CZE) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
19 Steele Von Hoff (AUS) Garmin-Sharp 0:00:28
44 Jonathan Cantwell (AUS) Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
116 Baden Cooke (AUS) Orica GreenEDGE 0:06:08
142 Michael Hepburn (AUS) Orica GreenEDGE 0:12:39