Jakub Mareczko edged out Mark Cavendish in the opening sprint of the Coppi e Bartali stage race in Italy.
The five-stage race got underway with a split stage on Tuesday (March 23), starting with a short 97.8km sprint followed by a team time trial.
As the stage looped around the commune of Gatteo in the Emilia-Romagna region, riders took on a mostly flat course, which then featured three ascents of the Longiano climb in the second half.
After the final ascent of the climb, the peloton dropped back down to finish in Gatteo for the bunch finish.
The race came down to a hard-fought sprint between legendary sprinter Cavendish (Deceuninck – Quick-Step) and Italy’s Mareczko (Vini Zabú), who narrowly edged out the Brit to take victory on stage 1a of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali 2021.
Mareczko, who previously raced for CCC Team at WorldTour level, also moves into the race lead heading into the TTT.
Britain’s Ethan Hayter also put up another strong result for Ineos Grenadiers in his second full year at WorldTour level, finishing 5th in the sprint.
Following the sprint stage, the race continues with a 14km TTT around Gatteo on Tuesday.
The race, which is not televised in the UK, is a historic 2.1-ranked event, which feature nine WorldTour teams this year, including Ineos, Deceuninck – Quick-Step and Jumbo-Visma.
Former winners of the race have included Britain’s Peter Kennaugh in 2014 and Diego Ulissi in 2013.
Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali 2021 stage 1a, Gatteo to Gatteo (97.8km)
1. Jakub Mareczko (Ita) Vini Zabú,
2. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Deceuninck – Quick-Step
3. Marius Mayrhofer (Ger) Team DSM
4. Dylan Sunderland (Aus) Team Qhubeka
5. Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers
6. Michael Zecchin (Ita) Work Service Marchiol Vega
7. Cristian Rocchetta (Ita) General Store Essegibi F.lli Curia
8. Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) EOLO-Kometa
9. Damiano Cima (Ita) Gazprom-RusVelo
10. Mick van Dijke (Ned) Jumbo-Visma