FILE PHOTO: Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the nineteenth stage of the Tour de France in 2017. Photo: Peter Dejong/AP

JUSSAC – Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen of Dimension Data won a sprint in a reduced peloton of the chief race contenders after a short but challenging opening stage of the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday.

It was the third win of the season for the 32-year-old, who got the edge on Belgian pair Philippe Gilbert of Quick Step and Jumbo newcomer Wout Van Aert.

In a race seen as form sharpening for the Tour de France Chris Froome, riding in the black and red of Ineos, finished in the reduced group of around 35 riders after the 142km run over six lush, green, hills in the stunning Cantal region.

“I doubt I’ll be keeping the yellow jersey for long,” Boasson Hagen joked after the race, but his win is a good sign for his team with the Tour just three weeks away.

“I got a bit lucky with the positioning,” he said after coming round the back of Gilbert in the home straight in a trademark powerful last 150 metres.

The day was marked by a long-range attack that stubbornly clung on to a slender lead until the final 600 metres.

At that moment Quick Step ace Julian Alaphilippe put the hammer down with Gilbert on his wheel and a win for one of the Belgian classics specialists looked a certainty.

“It shows I’ve got the legs,” Boasson Hagen told France Television after his sprint.

It is unlikely that had sprint-specialist Mark Cavendish been riding the race the Manxman would have made it over the hills with the select group, from which Boasson Hagen along with Sonny Colbrelli was a clear candidate for the win.

The 24-year-old Van Aert was left hungry despite his podium finish.

“I’ll be trying my luck again but this was a great start, stage one and I have the white jersey,” said former cyclo-cross champion.

“I could have done better but it’s a good result in the end and it shows I’m on form,” said Van Aert, one of the peloton’s exciting rising stars.

Earlier in the race, on the final climb, Quick Step also tried to get away, but Froome, Michal Kwiatkowski and the Ineos band were onto them immediately.

Monday’s second stage, a 180km undulating run from Mauriac in the Cantal region onto Craponne-sur-Arzon in the Haute-Loire offers the peloton eight hills to negotiate.