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May 12, 2014 – 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 193.1 kilometer (120 mile) 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 won Milano – Sanremo by 10 centimeters before,” Cavendish said. “I’ve lost a sprint in the Giro d’Italia by three centimeters. Both of those, I knew the outcome. This is the first time in my career I really had no idea. I had to wait a little bit until they confirmed. So, I’m super happy. It was hard, that line was coming up too fast, and John was strong today. But my Omega Pharma – Quick-Step teammates did a perfect job to keep me up there. There were a lot of trains vying for position. We knew it was going to be windy, but to be honest the wind changed direction on the way back. We thought it was going to be a crosswind in the last 20 miles on the main road on the way to Sacramento. We sensed the move that split the group. Omega Pharma – Quick-Step is a Belgian team. We felt the crosswinds, knew the split was going to happen, and we just went straight to the front. It split and we were there. We were well represented with four guys. But then we turned right and it was a headwind. That’s when we thought it was going to be a crosswind. If you’ve got a small group, that much distance, and a headwind, you’re never going to stay away. We sat up and didn’t deplete our energy any further. I could feel the work we did earlier in my sprint and I could see it in the guys setting up for the sprint. But they still kept me up there and led me out perfectly. We gave a good show for Omega Pharma – Quick-Step and we got the best result from our effort. I’m really proud of what we did today.”
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 20.1 kilometers 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 60 kilometers remaining, which opened out a gap of 45 seconds at one point on the chasing