South Africa’s Robbie Hunter has placed fourth after the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California cycle race in the United States.
The first of eight stages was an 167.8-kilometre ride between Nevada City and Sacramento.
The Garmin-Transition rider was right up there in the thick of things before easing back in the final dash to the line.
Britain’s Mark Cavendish took line honours after good lead-out work by his HTC-Columbia team-mate Mark Renshaw.
The opening stage was an eventful one with numerous crashes, including ace Quick Step sprinter Tom Boonen, who went down in the final kilometre.
Cavenish and runner-up Juan Hose Haedo of Saxo Bank saw any of the drama behind them as the crashes played havoc on the final lap.
“I was immediately behind HTC-Columbia train and was so focused on Cavendish’s wheel, I didn’t hear or see anything,” Haedo told Cyclingnews.com. The Saxo Bank sprinter was a bit disappointed to miss out on the win, but was philosophical.
“Naturally the goal was to win today, not only for the stage but to take over the leader’s jersey. But to beat Mark Cavendish is not as easy as it looks on TV.”
Hunter was credited with the same time of 4hr 04min 46sec as Cavendish, in fact the first 116 riders were given the same time.
Among them was two other South African riders, both riding for Fly V Australia. Jay Robert Thomson placed 50th and Darren Lill 72nd.
Hunter said on Twitter after the stage: What a messy final! Had guys body checking me the last 10kms for Cavendish’s wheel. When the sprint started had wasted so much energy. Ran 4th… not happy!”
Hunter’s Garmin-Transition team now lies sixth after the first stage, still with the same time as Team HTC-Colombia’s 12:14:18.
Monday’s second stage is a 176.2km journey from Davis to Santa Rosa.
By Mark Etheridge