The Australian, of Orica Greenedge, was overall champion last year and put himself in a great position this time out with a 0.17 second victory over Radioshack’s Bob Jungels of Luxembourg.
He had won the same stage last year on his way to the title, although the gap is smaller this time out.
Durbridge won the 6.8km time trial in eight minutes and 18 seconds, just ahead of Jungels and 13s clear of Orica team-mate Cameron Meyer, with the podium replicated in the General Classification.
Gerard Arnaud of France was fourth in the stage and overall. Earlier on Wednesday French champion Nacer Bouhanni won the second stage but that ride had little impact on the GC.
"The next two road stages are a bit more difficult than the last two stages last year,” said Durbridge. “It’s not ideal, but I think my road condition is better than last year. I’m going in with every intention to defend the jersey until the finish.
"We have options to play with Cam Meyer down by one second in third overall, and Svein [Tuft] is only 4s behind.
“Having Cam and Svein close to me on the overall is to our advantage. We can send one of them up the road to take the pressure off the rest of us. We have options, and we’ll discuss all of them in our team meeting.
“Tonight, I’m going to enjoy the victory. Tomorrow, we’ll worry about tomorrow.”
1. Luke Durbridge (Orica-Greenedge) 8:18
2. Bob Jungels (Radioshack) +0.17s
3. Cameron Meyer (Orica) +13s
4. Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) +16s
5. Eduardo Sepuvelda (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) +27s
1. Luke Durbridge (Orica-Greenedge)
2. Bob Jungels (Radioshack)
3. Cameron Meyer (Orica) +1s
4. Arnaud Gerard (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) +4s
5. Eduardo Sepuvelda (Bretagne-Seche Environnement) +15s
- Sports & Recreation
- Cameron Meyer