They have spent the season as team-mates on the Trek-Livestrong squad but today they were fierce competitors.

Taylor Phinney, the American, pipped Britain’s Alex Dowsett by six seconds to win the prologue of the Tour de l’Avenir – who translates as Tour of the Future. It’s a week-long stage race for rider aged under 23.

Dowsett rode the seven-kilometre course in a time of 9-01 but watched as Phinney went faster to take the first leader’s jersey of the race.

Daniel Teklehaimanot, the Eritrean product of the UCI’s international cycling centre, sixth last year, was only 32nd.

Last year’s overall winner, Romain Sicard, is now riding as a pro for Euskaltel-Euskadi, and the runner-up Tejay Van Garderen is currently at the Vuelta a Espana with HTC-Columbia.

The Tour de l’Avenir has a long history as a proving ground for young talent. Previous winners include Greg Lemond (1982), Olaf Ludwig (1983), Charly Mottet (1984), Denis Menchov (2001), Sylvain Calzati (2004) and Lars Bak (2005).

Britain’s other riders were Mark Christian, who was 18th, Luke Rowe 36th, Erick Rowsell 52nd, Andrew Fenn 55th, and Tim Kennaugh (brother of Team Sky’s Peter) 84th.

Monday’s first stage is a 144-kilometre leg from Vierzon to Saint-Amand-Montrond.