Ben Swift triumphs in Tour of California opener

Ben Swift
Swift won the final stage of the Tour Down Under in January

Team Sky rider Ben Swift finished ahead of the pack in a frantic sprint finish to win the belated opening stage of the Tour of California.

The 23-year-old Briton won the shortened 77-mile stage in two hours, 47 minutes with Peter Sagan of Slovakia second and Australia's Matt Goss third.

"It was absolutely perfect," said Swift. "The team was awesome."

The opening stage was shortened by 57 miles because of heavy rain in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

It was the second day running that weather hampered the event, with the original opening stage from South Lake Tahoe to Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort on Sunday cancelled because of unseasonal snow.

And Monday's stage, originally scheduled to begin at Squaw Valley - site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, was shortened with the riders starting from Nevada City.

Laszlo Bodrogi of France, Germany's Tim Seubert and Americans Ben Jacques-Maynes and James Driscoll were the early movers and they broke from the 144-rider field after 10 miles.

At one stage the quartet were four minutes clear but they were caught with around eight miles left.

And Swift broke clear in the last-gasp sprint to win by a bike length.

"The rain helped," added Swift on the afternoon weather that made the finishing circuit's roads slick. "I grew up riding in the rain. It puts fear into some riders and it helped us control it. The team worked perfectly.

"When I looked at the race, there were four of five stages where I thought I could do well, including yesterday. Unfortunately, we didn't race yesterday, so there are three or four more left."

The seven-day tour continues on Tuesday with a 122-mile road race from Auburn to Modesto.

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