A couple of riders tried a breakaway, but after 194 kilometres between Lochristi (near Ghent) and the coastal resort of Knokke-Heist (West Flanders) it was down to a bunch sprint.
The Belgian Lotto-Belisol team organised a perfect lead-out for their German sprinter André Greipel and the German "Gorilla" - as he is dubbed in the peloton - beat Belgium's hope Tom Boonen into second place. Dutchman Ramon Sinkeldam came third. Greipel is also the first leader. Tom Boonen is second in the general standings, 4 seconds behind Greipel.
"My team prepared the final sprint in a perfect manner. They gave a perfect sprint lesson. It was a textbook sprint. Other teams were looking at us, but couldn't beat us. This is a mental boost for the Tour de France, the "real work" so to speak," Greipel told reporters. The German sprinter has fewer ambitions for Thursday, when the course leads the peloton through the Flemish Ardennes, where the Tour of Flanders is held. "Tomorrow might be more (team mate) Jurgen Roelandts' cup of tea."
Cycling fans are also looking forward to Friday's stage, an individual time trial of 15 kilometres in Beveren-Waas, which will feature a direct battle between Fabian Cancellara and last year's overall winner Tony Martin. However, the tour will probably only be decided on Sunday, with a tough stage in the Ardennes.