Britain?s David Millar finished the opening stage of the Criterium International on the right side of a major split in the bunch.

Decidedly pessimistic about his chances on Friday evening because of illness at Paris-Nice and a lengthy recovery, Millar (Slipstream) nonetheless kept his eye on the ball and finished in a front group of 34 riders.

The group was unable to catch day-long breakaway and stage winner Laurens Ten Dam (Rabobank). But their advantage of nearly seven minutes over the rest of the field still puts them in pole position to challenge for the final victory.

Amongst those who missed the move were Millar?s team-mate and leader for the Criterium Dave Zabriskie, as well as two-times Criterium winner Bobby Julich (CSC). However, other big names such as Jens Voigt (CSC), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D?Epargne) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) all made the cut.

?The split was caused by the cross-winds, pure and simple.? Millar?s team directeur sportif Jonathan Vaughters told Cycling on Saturday evening.

?Dave Zabriskie was on the wrong side of it. Why? Because he?s got a big engine, but sometimes the driver falls asleep at the wheel.

It?s a disappointment. I mean, Dave Z. can still win the time trial [on Sunday] for sure, but he?s just going to get a nice stage victory, not the overall.

As for Dave Millar, well, either he?ll win the whole thing or finish twentieth. Either one, or the other: nothing inbetween.?

Vaughters tipped Millar?s team-mate Trent Lowe of Australia as another good option. ?He can climb and he?s shown that he can time trial, just look at what he did in the Paris-Nice prologue, which was as short as tomorrow?s tt stage.?

Slipstream?s Magnus Backstedt is also taking part in the Criterium and on the road to recovery after early season injuries. Vaughters reported ?He?s doing fine, going at his own speed.

He?s doing the Three Days of De Panne, so we may pull him out of Sunday?s stage. If he?s going to be ready for Roubaix, it?ll be at the last minute, but he?ll make it, for sure.?

RESULTS STAGE ONE

1 Laurens Ten Dam (Hol) Rabobank 193km in 4-50-04
2 Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) Francaise des Jeux at 10sec
3 Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre
4 Jerome Pineau (Fra) Bouygues
5 Sebastian Schwager (Ger) Milram
6 Kevin Ista (Bel) Agritubel
7 Alexandre Kolobnev (Rus) CSC
8 Egoi Martinez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
9 Frank Schleck (Lux) CSC
10 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC
24 David Millar (GB) Slipstream all same time
136 Ian Stannard (GB) Landbouwkrediet at 12min 40 sec

OVERALL AFTER STAGE ONE

1 Laurens Ten Dam (Hol) Rabobank 4-49-45
2 Benoit Vaugrenard (Fra) Francaise des Jeux at 23sec
3 Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre at 25sec
4 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC at 28sec
5 Jerome Pineau (Fra) Bouygues at 29sec
6 Sebastian Schwager (Ger) Milram
7 Kevin Ista (Bel) Agritubel
8 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) CSC
9 Egoi Martínez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi
10 Frank Schleck (Lux) CSC
24 David Millar (GB) Slipstream all same time
136 Ian Stannard (GB) Landbouwkrediet at 12min 59sec