Cavendish seals debut win
Mark Cavendish marked his debut for Omega Pharma-Quick-Step and the start of his 2013 campaign with a trademark sprint victory on stage one of the Tour de San Luis in Argentina.
The 27-year-old hit the front with around 200m to go and never looked in danger of being caught as Italian duo Sacha Modolo and Alessandro Petacchi were left trailing in second and third place respectively.
It was the perfect start to a new chapter in Cavendish's career and an emphatic retort to long-term rival Andre Greipel's sprint victory in the People's Choice Classic at the Santos Tour Down Under on Sunday.
Stage one of the Tour de San Luis took riders 164km from San Luis to Villa Mercedes in central Argentina.
A group of seven riders - all from local teams - took advantage of an undulating first 50km to break clear and open up a gap of more than eight minutes on the peloton.
However, after the third-category climb of Alto Saladillo at 55km, the road evened out and then angled gently downhill all the way to the finish line, leaving the escapees little chance of staying out.
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step did most of the work to bring them back, which they achieved with about 10km to go, before taking to the front themselves and leading the pack into the closing kilometres.
Sylvain Chavanel gave a final tow to Cavendish but, sensing his French team-mate was wilting, the 2011 world champion jumped on to the back of the Lampre-Merida train.
A crash inside the final 500m threatened to disrupt his chances, but he launched his sprint with 200m to go and crossed the line with clear daylight between himself and Modolo (Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox) and Petacchi (Lampre-Merida).
Cavendish, who joined Omega Pharma - Quick-Step from Team Sky during the winter, now moves into overall leadership of the race.
Stage one result
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step, 3:48:04; 2 Sacha Modolo (Ita) Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox, same time; 3 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st; 4 Leigh Howard (Aus) ORICA-GreenEDGE, st; 5 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, st; 6 Rafael Andriato (Bra) Vini Fantini, st; 7 Francesco Lasca (Ita) Caja Rural, st; 8 Thor Hushovd (Nor) BMC, st; 9 Kenny Dehaes (Bel) Lotto Belisol, st; 10 Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Androni Giocattoli, st.