Mark Cavendish of Great Britain claimed the opening stage and his sixth career stage title in the Amgen Tour of California in downtown Sacramento on Sunday.
Cavendish (Etixx – Quick-Step), 29, who has 25 career Tour de France stage wins, bolted past Slovakian Peter Sagan en route to his mass sprint win in the 126.2-mile flat road race in 4 hours, 43 minutes and 26 seconds. It was his 10th win of the season.
Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), the four-time sprint competition winner in the Tour de France and a 11-time stage winner at the Tour of California, was second in the same time. Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC) of Luxembourg was third in mass sprint, also in the same time.
Cavendish, whose stage wins at the Tour of California date to 2010, will be the race leader for Monday’s second stage, a 120-mile road race from Nevada City to Lodi. The second stage is also expected to be a stage for sprinters.
Cavendish also won Tour of California stages in Sacramento in 2010 and last year, also on the opening day.
William Clarke (Drapac), Steve Fisher (Jelly Belly-Maxxis), Rob Britton and Robert Sweeting (SmartStop) formed the break of the day early in the stage.
The main field let the leading a foursome power down and tho lead grew nearly seven minutes 15 miles into the stage. Britton fell back into the field after a mechanical problem. But the three remaining riders rode at the front until they approached the three finishing circuits. A few second later, only Sweeting and Clarke remained and they, too, were soon caught.
American Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin), an overall title favorite who finished 10th in the 2013 Tour de France, withdrew from the race after about 60 miles with an upper respiratory problem contracted Saturday night.
James Raia is a Sacrameto-based freelance reporter. He has covered the Amgen Tour of California every year.