Britain's David Millar was a provisional second as the Tour de France began with an opening 6.4-kilometre prologue in Liege.
Scot Millar (Garmin-Sharp) had been a doubt for his 11th Tour due to illness earlier this week and clocked seven minutes 31.62 seconds. The Commonwealth Games time-trial champion was the 60th rider to take to the route, with 138 rolling down the starting ramp behind him.
Steve Cummings, riding for defending champion Cadel Evans' BMC Racing team, also finished in 7mins 31secs at the start of his second Tour, behind Millar in third by a split second.
The distance and time gains are minute in the context of the 3,497km race, but Bradley Wiggins has demonstrated the prologue form to suggest he could become the fifth Briton to don the yellow jersey with victory. Millar was the last Briton to wear the maillot jaune.
Wiggins (Team Sky) is seen as the main rival to Evans and is seeking to become the first Briton on the Tour podium in Paris on July 22.
The general classification contenders were set to be among the later starters of the 198-man field.