Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC) won the opening stage of the Tour of Missouri on Monday, out-sprinting fellow fastmen Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank) and Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) in St Louis.
Cavendish came off Tour de France rival Hushovd's wheel in the dying metres of the 120.7km circuit race to seal the victory in front of large crowds. The Manxman came around him as the big Norwegian faded a little, also allowing Argentinian Haedo through to take second.
As well as keeping an eye on each other, the riders also had to contend with an uneven road surface - Hushovd hit a pothole in the final kilometre, causing a slow puncture. Cavendish's Columbia-HTC lead-out train also disintegrated when George Hincapie hit a hole and lost momentum.
"The guys did a great job," Cavendish said after the stage. "Cervelo tried to give us a hard time at the end but the guys kept control and did a perfect job.
"George fell down a hole in the road in the final, so I hope he's ok," he added. "I jumped on Thor's wheel and came round him."
"I didn't feel too good today due to the jetlag, but it was a pretty straight forward race and the guys kept it under control from the beginning."
Last year's winner Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) also came down in a crash in the final kilometre fracturing a bone in his hand. The crash took out several other riders including Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo). All were given the same finishing time as Cavendish.
Cavendish won an unusual prize for winning the opening stage - a Buell 1125cc 145bhp sports motorcycle. Perhaps he'll ship it back to the Isle of Man and take part in next year's TT races.
Last year Cavendish won three stages of the race, and took the points jersey overall. He's now won 22 professional races this year, including six stages of the Tour de France and Milan-San Remo - his career total is now 50.
The seven-stage Tour of Missouri runs from Monday, September 7, to Sunday, September 13. Tuesday's second stage runs from Ste. Genevieve to Cape Girardeau, 180.9km (112.4 miles).
Tour of Missouri 2009: St Louis-St Louis, 120.7km
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-HTC in 2-43-56
2. Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank
3. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo
4. Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas
5. Martin Gilbert (Can) Planet Energy
6. Sebastian Haedo Lucas (Arg) Colavita-Sutter Home
7. Antonio Cruz (USA) BMC Racing Team
8. Alex Candelario (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies
9. John Murphy (USA) OUCH-Maxxis
10. Michael Friedman (USA) Garmin-Slipstream all same time.
Overall classification after stage one
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-HTC in 2-43-46
2. Moises Aldape Chavez (Mex) Team Type 1 at 2sec
3. Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Saxo Bank at 4sec
4. Tomas Vaitkus (Ltu) Astana at same time
5. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo at 6sec
6. Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Saxo Bank at same time
7. Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas at 10sec
8. Martin Gilbert (Can) Planet Energy
9. Sebastian Haedo Lucas (Arg) Colavita-Sutter Home
10. Antonio Cruz (USA) BMC Racing Team at same time.
Cavendish takes the first stage of the Tour of Missouri, edging out Hushovd and Haedo (right)
Filling up the wardrobe: Cavendish and jerseys
Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile
Cavendish to miss Tour of Britain
Leipheimer to ride Missouri
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