British sprint specialist Mark Cavendish held off a crowded field of cyclists to capture the first stage of Amgen Tour of California.
The opening leg of the eight-day tour, which took the competitors from Nevada City to Sacramento, was tight throughout, with the riders remaining bunched together for almost all of the 101.4-mile trek.
As the racers entered Sacramento, Cavendish and his HTC Columbia teammates began to make their move, setting the pace as the field made three winding loops around the state Capitol.
In the end, Cavendish narrowly held off a spirited attempt from Juan Jose Haedo of team Saxo Bank, and Alexander Kristoff of the BMC Racing Team. Cavendish staved off Haedo's late surge by less than a bicycle length.
The race's finish was marred by two separate crashes, including a major pileup that included Tom Boonen, a Belgian racer expected to compete for the tour title with team Garmin-Transitions.
The official race times of the event have not been released yet.