By Nick Bull
Mark Cavendish started his 2013 season with a victory as he sprinted to win stage one of the Tour de San Luis on Monday.
Making his first competitive outing for his new Omega Pharma-Quick Step team, Cavendish comfortably beat Italians Sacha Modolo and Alessandro Petacchi, with last year's Tour de France green jersey winner Peter Sagan trailing in fifth.
The Manxman's five team-mates worked tirelessly throughout the stage, and played a big part in controlling the advantage of a seven-man group who broke clear early on. The escapees were allowed a maximum gap of around eight minutes early on in the stage, before the efforts of Omega Pharma soon set about reeling them in.
Not helped by splitting up towards the back end of the stage, the leaders never looked like resisting the efforts of the WorldTour teams present in Argentina, and the race came together again with 7km remaining.
Still Cavendish's new team were applying the pressure at the front of the bunch, and despite a tense run in to the finish, the 2011 world champion won his opening race of a season for the first time in his career.
"The team did a great job for me today," said Cavendish. "We were the first team to start riding, with Martin Velits at the beginning, we were present at the front the whole day. We got help from other teams too, the sprinter teams, but the guys just rode so strong and stayed with me the whole day. It is so nice to have a team with me that is 100 percent committed. I'm so, so proud of the guys today.
"All the teams are fresh and motivated, so it was real, real chaos. It was hard to stay together. I had a few guys with me, and in the finishing straightt, within 1 kilometer or 400 meters it was just kind of about staying at the front.
"It was hard with a bit of a dip into the finish and nothing really marking 100 meters or 200 meters, so I just kind of jumped at 250 meters. I knew when I jumped I'd have a good shot at it, even though there was some wind. It feels good to be fresh with a good bunch of guys and on such a fast bike. The guys really looked after me, so I had 100 per cent energy at the finish. I'm so happy I could win."
Tour de San Luis 2013, stage one: San Luis - Villa Mercedes 164km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step in 3-48-04
2. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Bardini Valvole-CSF Inox
3. Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
4. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
5. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
6. Rafael de Mattos (Bra) Vini Fantini
7. Franceso Lasca (Ita) Caja Rural
8. Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC Racing
9. Kenny Dehaes (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
10. Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Androni Giocattoli all at st.
89. Scott Thwaites (GBr) NetApp-Endura
129. Jonny McEvoy (GBr) NetApp-Endura
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