AMGEN Tour of California: Mark Cavendish takes opening sprint victory in Sacramento
Last Updated: 13/05/14 5:30am
Mark Cavendish: Narrow victory to capture the lead in California
Mark Cavendish edged out a narrow stage one victory to move into the early race lead at the Tour of California.
The Manx Missile (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) had enough in reserve to win a photo finish on the opening day despite battling it out in a front echelon caused by cross-winds.
The sprinter had been joined in an elite front group by Team Sky's Sir Bradley Wiggins as the race split apart for an intense period on the run-in to Sacramento.
Despite the move being hauled back Cavendish was able to reel in the sprint of John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) to open out an early four-second lead at the head of affairs.
Wiggins finished safely in the pace despite not being content to simply sit in the bunch on stage one - Team Sky proving the architects of the audacious move with 60 kilometres remaining, which opened out a gap of 45 seconds at one point on the chasing pack.
Cavendish and a number of his Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team-mates had previously added their horsepower to the break before it was shut down, yet still had enough in reserve to set up the lead-out.
The State capital hosted the opening test of the race and a chance for the sprinters to battle it out for the gold jersey.
Six riders, including young British talent Tao Geoghegan Hart (Bissell Development), pressed on out of Sacramento and built up an advantage ahead of the undulations around Auburn.
With both Cavendish and Degenkolb respectively in their ranks it was no surprise to see Omega Pharma - Quick-Step and Giant-Shimano setting the pace on the front during the loop around Gold Country.
The rhythm was shattered with 60km to go as Team Sky hit the front on an exposed section to rip up the race in the cross-winds, quickly splitting apart from the race.
With none of his general classification rivals making the move Wiggins shirked none of the responsibility and relentlessly drove onwards to push out the time gap and spell the end for the early break.
With that exciting move eventually closed down, a lack of structure to the run-in saw attacks punctuate the finale, but there was no stopping a bunch kick and an opening Cavendish victory.