Mark Renshaw (Etixx-QuickStep) showed up for the finale of stage 1 at the Tour of California Sunday and did what he does best, setting up his sprinter Mark Cavendish in perfect position to grab his 10th win of the season.
But before Renshaw could go to work on the closing circuits in Sacramento, he had to recover from a nasty crash early in the stage that saw him launch over his handlebars.
"There was a massive pothole and when you're in the middle of the peloton you don't see it," Cavendish said. "I was riding next to him and he just disappeared due to the fall. So I was a bit worried. But fortunately he made it back and did a great job in the end, even if he's a bit sore."
Renshaw obviously took the fall in stride, even joking about it on Twitter after the stage.
"Came to a rather sudden stop today after I hit a massive pot hole," Renshaw wrote. "My front flip with an average landing didn't score high with the judges."
Cavendish beat Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Jempy Drucker (BMC Racing) for the win, his third in Sacramento.
After the peloton caught the day’s breakaway on the first of three downtown circuits, Etixx-QuickStep moved to the front with about 4.7km to go and were able to maintain control going into the final kilometre, where Renshaw and Cavendish took over.
"Renshaw did good to set up Cav, it's his specialty," said Sport Director Brian Holm. "But we also had our whole team doing great work to get him in there for the win today."
Cavendish will wear the leader's jersey going into Monday's second stage, a 193.7km route from Nevada City to Lodi. Given the relatively flat parcours, especially in the last half of the stage, another sprint finish looks likely.
"I'd really like to see if we can go for another win with me in the yellow jersey," Cavendish said. "Then we will take it day-by-day in the next stages. We've got a strong team here structured around the sprints, and we'll see what results we can get when the chances are there after this victory today."
Holm said his team is motivated, but they can't underestimate the other teams.
"A lot of teams rode really strong today, such as in the crosswinds," Holm said. "We have to stay awake. Cavendish looked good today and we will give it another try whenever we have the opportunity at Tour of California."
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