Elia Viviani (Cannondale) sprinted to victory at Drumlanrig Castle to win the inaugural stage of the 2013 Tour of Britain and become the early overall race leader.
The Italian, 24, outsprinted Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Gerald Ciolek (MTN Qhubeka) after a difficult start to the tenth edition – in its current guise – of the Tour of Britain.
Earlier, the peloton rolled out in Peebles in wet and windy conditions but the miserable weather did not stop a five-man break quickly establishing a sizable lead.
Kristian House (Rapha Condor JLT), Christophe Laborie (Sojasun), Aaron Gate (An Post Chain Reaction), Pete Hawkins and Ben Greenwood (both IG Sigma Sport) at one point led the bunch by more than five minutes.
Hawkins became the first man on the King of the Mountains leaderboard as he passed the summit of the category three Black Castle Hill climb first, with House, Gate and Greenwood also picking up points.
Laborie meanwhile took an early lead in the virtual GC, as he picked up maximum points on the first Yodel Direct sprint in Hawick and therefore a three-second time bonus.
Gate was second in the sprint, picking up a two-second bonus, while House pipped Hawkins to third and a one-second bonus.
The ascent of Lime Kiln Edge slowed the escapees however, and by the time Kristian House, last year’s King of the Mountains, crossed the summit to collect six further climbing points the Sky-led peloton had cut the lead to 3’40”.
Driving rain continued to make conditions on the road very difficult, with surface water creating impromptu water hazards, and a fierce headwind slowed the pace of both the bunch and the break throughout.
Nevertheless, Gate earned himself another time bonus by pipping Hawkins, Laborie and House to the second Yodel Direct intermediate sprint in Newcastleton.
However the gap continued to fall, with Team Sky continuing to lead the peloton, assisted by Omega Pharma-Quickstep, and keeping the break a steady two minutes up the road.
In much better conditions as they approached Drumlanrig Castle, the removal of the rain jackets prompted an upping of the pace in the peloton.
Mark Cavendish (OPQS) and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) remained safe at the front with their team mates, as Bernhard Eisel (Team Sky) and Julien Vermote (OPQS) were particularly instrumental in driving the bunch and cutting the gap to less than a minute.
Anthony Delaplace (Sojasun) attacked off the front of the bunch on the category three Dunscore and successfully bridged to, and passed, the escapees before the summit.
Moments later the original five-man break was absorbed into the peloton, but House led them over the top to ensure he will wear the polka dot jersey for stage two.
Delaplace’s lead at one point reached 1’35”, despite him initially riding solo into a driving headwind, but the pace of the peloton ensured the gap never grew too big.
The Frenchman crossed the final intermediate sprint first to earn a three-second time bonus, while Wiggins showed his intent as he crossed in third, behind 2012 runner-up Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp) to earn a one-second bonus.
Delaplace was eventually caught by the Sky-led peloton with 14km remaining but a break by Brit Alex Dowsett (Movistar) shortly afterwards led to the bunch becoming strung out.
Sky dropped the hammer and quickly neutralised Dowsett’s attack but the pace proved too much for some at the back of the bunch, and Mark Christian (Raleigh) was among several riders who became entangled and crashed as they tried to keep pace on the narrow roads.
Garmin-Sharp seized the initiative with five kilometres remaining, but the sprint train of Omega Pharma-Quickstep remained in contention, as did Cannondale’s.
But with Cavendish becoming boxed in it was the green machine who set up Viviani for victory.
A big crash brought down several riders just metres from the line – the long-term impact of which remains to be seen – but nevertheless the opening stage belonged to the Italian sprinter, who will line up in Cumbria for stage two in the gold jersey.
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Tour of Britain 2013 – stage one result
1 Elia Viviani Cannondale 6h 4′ 43”
2 Alessandro Petacchi Omega Pharma-Quickstep same time
3 Gerald Ciolek MTN Qhubeka
4 Marco Coledan Bardiani Valvole CSF Inox
5 Matteo Pelucchi IAM Cycling
6 Evaldas Siskevicius Sojasun
7 Shane Archbold AN Post Chain Reaction
8 Jonathan Dibben Great Britain
9 Steele Von Hoff Garmin Sharp
10 James Williamson Node 4 Giordana Racing
1 Elia Viviani Cannondale 6h 4′ 33”
2 Alessandro Petacchi Omega Pharma-Quickstep +0′ 4”
3 Gerald Ciolek MTN Qhubeka +0′ 6”
4 Aaron Gate An Post Chain Reaction same time
5 Christophe Laborie Sojasun
6 Anthony Delaplace Sojasun +0′ 7”
7 Nathan Haas Garmin-Sharp +0′ 8”
8 Peter Hawkins Team IG Sigma Sport same time
9 Bradley Wiggins Sky +0’9″
10 Marco Coledan Bardiani Valvole CSF Inox +0′ 10”