Mark Cavendish (Columbia) finished the opening stage of Tirreno-Adriatico seven minutes behind winner Julien El Fares (Cofidis) after a mechanical problem at the start of the final climb left him standing in the road waiting for the Columbia team car.

?I thought my chain had come off and Fabian Cancellara gave me a little push but then I couldn?t get going,? Cavendish told Cycling Weekly at the finish of the stage with his fingers covered in oil after trying to resolve the problem himself.

?My chain actually came out of here (Cavendish indicated to the bottom arm of his Shimano rear mech.) Our team car was number 19 in the convoy and so I had to wait until they came up to get a bike change.?

Before the stage Cavendish was quietly confident of making it over the climb and winning the sprint. He had ridden the climb several times during stays in Tuscany and impressed on similar climbs during the Strade Bianche race on Saturday.

Fortunately El Fares and Vladimir Duma (Flaminia) mananged to stay away, meaning the sprinters only fought for third place on the stage. Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) won the sprint, beating Alessandro Petacchi (LPR), Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Fabian Wegmann (Milram).

Cavendish will have a chance to make amends on Thursday. Stage two is over 177km from Volterra to Marina di Carrara on the Tuscan coast. It includes a late climb up to the town of Carrara but the 13km descent to the finish should mean the bunch comes back together.

The other British riders in Tirreno-Adriatico also lost some time. Dan Lloyd (Cervelo) was best finisher in 73rd place, 1-16 down. Charly Wegelius (Silence) was 133rd at 1-57, Steve Cummings was 142nd, Geraint Thomas was 154th, and Roger Hammond (Cervelo) was 160th, all at 4-43.

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