Cavendish captures 1st stage

Mark Cavendish (AFP)
Mark Cavendish (AFP)

Los Angeles - Britain's Mark Cavendish outdueled John Degenkolb in the final stretch to win in a photo finish and capture the first stage of the 2014 Tour of California on Sunday.

Omega Pharma rider Cavendish finished the 193.1km first stage, which started and finished in the California state capital, in four hours, 44 minutes and 17 seconds.

Cavendish admitted the finish was so close he wasn't sure he had won. He grabbed the razor-thin victory ahead of Germany's Degenkolb, with Moreno Hofland of the Netherlands third.

"I've won a sprint by 10 centimeters before and lost a sprint by three, and both of them I knew the outcome," Cavendish said. "This time, I really had no idea who won ... so I'm super-happy."

Slovakia's Peter Sagan, who owns the record for most stage wins in the race with 10, had to settle for fourth place.

Kiel Reijnen was the sole survivor of a late break away, but he was swept up in the last of three laps on a downtown circuit as Cannondale and Omega Pharma took control.

Degenkolb and Cavendish powered to the line side by side, with the Briton getting the win by the width of a tyre.

He didn't allow himself a celebratory smile until the photo confirmed his victory.

The ninth edition of the Tour of California continues on Monday with a 20.1km individual time trial in Folsom.

Britain's Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France champion, finished safely in the pack despite not being content to simply sit in the bunch on stage one.

The Briton's Team Sky put together a bold move with 60km remaining, which opened out a gap of 45 seconds at one point on the chasing pack.

Tour of California results after Sunday's first stage, 193.1km starting and finishing in Sacramento:

Stage One

1. Mark Cavendish (GBR/Omega Pharma) 4hr, 44:17, 2. John Degenkolb (GER) same time, 3. Moreno Hofland (NED) s.t., 4. Peter Sagan (SVK) s.t., 5. Danny van Poppel (NED) s.t.

Overall standings (After 1 of 8 stages)

1. Mark Cavendish (GBR/Omega Pharma) 4:44:07, 2. John Degenkolb (GER) at 0:04, 3. Moreno Hofland (NED) at 0:06, 4. Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR) at 0:06, 5. Peter Sagan (SVK) at 0:10

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