Signalling its intent to upstage Orica-GreenEDGE in the Herald Sun Tour, Garmin-Sharp took the race prologue honours on Wednesday night, with four finishers ahead of its better-known counterparts.
Kiwi national champion Jack Bauer will wear the leader's jersey as the four-stage event hits Victorian country roads on Thursday after winning a 2.5-kilometre time trial.
Bauer's Australian Garmin teammates, 2011 champion Nathan Haas, Steele Von Hoff and Rohan Dennis were all in the top seven, while Simon Clarke was the fastest GreenEDGE rider, five seconds off the victor's pace.
Simon Gerrans, the biggest fish among 96 starters in the event and looking for an unprecedented third title in the 61st edition, begins stage one - a 116.1-kilometre course between Geelong and Ballarat - six seconds behind.
Last month's Tour Down Under winner, Gerrans completed the time trial in 3 minutes, 06 seconds.
''Like everyone says, he's in the form of his life and there's no better bike rider from this side of the world at the moment,'' Bauer said of Gerrans after racing over the short course along the Yarra River in the heart of Melbourne.
''Obviously, he's the man to beat, and he has a strong team around him. But so do we - we can do exactly the same thing. We definitely have a few cards to play.''
Cameron Meyer, Matt Goss, Mitch Docker and under-23 rider Damien Howson make up the GreenEDGE outfit for the event. Thomas Dekker and Lachlan Morton round out the Garmin team.
Italian outfit Cannondale Pro Cycling is the third team with World Tour status from the 16 entered.
Tom Scully (New Zealand national team) was second in the time trial, while Will Clarke (Drapac) was third.
HERALD SUN TOUR, Feb 5-9
Results, prologue 2.5km (Melbourne CBD)
1. Jack BAUER, Garmin Sharp 3:00.90
2. Tom SCULLY New Zealand National Team 3:01.81
3. Will CLARKE Drapac Professional Cycling 3:02.51
Next: stage one, Thursday 116.1km, Geelong - Ballarat, starts 10:30am
Stage two Friday 163km, Ballarat to Bendigo, starts 10:30am
Stage three Saturday 156.1km, Mitchelton Winery to Nagambie, starts 10:30am
Stage four Sunday 125km, Arthurs Seat, starts 2:30pm