Cycling: Hushovd takes prologue as Paris-Nice row rumbles on

The Norwegian Thor Hushovd made the best of changing weather conditions to win the Paris-Nice prologue here yesterday.

The Credit Agricole team leader mastered the slippery course and resisted headwinds to win the 4.6km time-trial in five minutes and 28 seconds. A steady drizzle fell for most of the day favouring the early starters who had the luck to ride on a dry course, and the very last riders, who started when the tarmac had dried up a bit.

Basque Markel Irizar took an unexpected second place, four seconds adrift. Germany's Stefan Schumacher, who started last, was third, in the same time of 5:33 as Australian Bradley McGee. The winner of last year's prologue, Briton David Millar, had to be content with 12th place.

But Millar may have other ambitions: "I climbed the Mount Ventoux twice last week and Paris-Nice is one of my big objectives of the early season," he said. The Mount Ventoux stage on Thursday is expected to be the highlight of the week.

The absence from the race of Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, rejected by organisers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) with his whole Astana team, was one of many elements of a bitter feud between ASO and the International Cycling Union (UCI) that has overshadowed the event.

After the Court of Arbitration for Sport declined to rule over the dispute on Friday, 15 members of the Association of Professional Cycling Teams voted to go ahead and take part in the race despite the threat of expulsion from the UCI.