The German out-sprinted a stellar field of fast-men in the flat opening stage of the now WorldTour level race, beating world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to the line.
Sagan, a 15 time stage winner and 2015 overall winner of the Tour of California, was well placed coming into the final 150 metres but could do nothing but follow the phenomenal pace of Kittel who held his sprint right to the line.
Kittel had been dropped perfectly in the centre-front of the field in the final 200 metres by his team-mate Fabio Sabatini, and had the win in the bag from that point.
Team Sky‘s Elia Viviani also benefited from exceptional work from his teammates in the closing kilometres, but was unable to finish it off to take a second win of the year.
Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) may be the most disappointed of the sprinters with his 13th place. He looked to have a strong leadout but was dropped off early by his teammates and never looked in the running for the win.
167.5km stage had been fairly straight forward affair for the riders before taking on laps of a circuit in Sacramento.
Floris Gerts (BMC), Jonny Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), Charles Planet (Novo Nordisk) and Ben Wolfe (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) formed the day’s main breakaway, and despite only holding around 2-30 of an advantage most of the way, they admirably held on to within the final 16km.
Clarke was the last rider caught with 9km to go, as Sky began to ramp up the pace.
But there was nothing anyone could do about the pace of Kittel, who now leads the overall by four seconds thanks to a time bonus and looked right on top form with a number of other sprint stages coming up in the race.
It’s unlikely to be tomorrow though, with a tough finish in San Jose set for the riders after a 143km route full of classified climbs.
Tour of California 2017, stage one: Sacrmento – Sacramento (167.5km)
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors, in 3-45-35
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
5. Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
6. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data
7. Martin Velits (Svk) Quick-Step Floors
8. Marko Kump (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
9. Wouter Wippert (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac
10. Travis Mccabe (USA) UnitedHealthcare, all same time
General classification after stage one
1 Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors 3-45-25
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 4s
3 Elia Viviani (Ita) Team Sky, at 6s
4 Floris Gerts (Ned) BMC Racing Team, at 9s
5 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo, at 10s
6 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC Racing Team
7 Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data
8 Martin Velits (Svk) Quick-Step Floors
9 Marko Kump (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
10 Wouter Wippert (Ned) Cannondale-Drapac, all same time