German Stefan Schumacher caught the favourites out to snatch the Tour de France overall leader's yellow jersey with victory in the fourth stage, a 29.5-km time trial around Cholet on Tuesday.
The Gerolsteiner rider clocked a best time of 35 minutes and 44 seconds on a windswept course at an average speed of 49.534 kph to beat Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen of Team Columbia by 18 seconds.
Briton David Millar of the Garmin-Chipotle team, who has two time trial victories on the Tour to his name, came home third, also 18 seconds behind Schumacher.
The trio occupy the three first places in the overall standings, with Schumacher leading Kirchen and Millar by 12 seconds.
"It is incredible, winning the stage and taking the yellow jersey at the same time is a dream coming true," said the 26-year-old Schumacher.
Australian Cadel Evans, one of the race's hot favourites, underlined his credentials by taking fourth place 27 seconds off the pace.
"So far, so good," said the Silence-Lotto rider, fourth overall 21 seconds adrift of Schumacher. "I am first in the favourites' standings."
Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, who wore the yellow jersey for two days, had a relatively disappointing run, losing one minute and seven seconds to Evans, whom he will have to attack in the mountain stages to fulfil his dream of winning the Tour.
Italian Damiano Cunego, not a time trial specialist, hung on well, losing only 58 seconds to Evans.
Stage hot favourite Fabian Cancellara had superstitiously flipped his bib number 13 upside down but it did not help him and the Swiss finished fifth, 33 seconds off the pace.
On a course that was tailor-made for the twice time trial world champion, Rabobank's Denis Menchov of Russia set the race favourites' pace with a time of 36:18.
Riccardo Ricco, second in the Giro d'Italia, finished three minutes and 36 seconds behind the stage winner.
The Italian has already virtually lost any hope of winning the Tour.
France's Romain Feillu, who was wearing the yellow jersey when he started the stage, lost 4:59 to Schumacher and slipped down to 41st in the overall standings.