The fourth stage of the Amgen Tour of California didn't look like a day for the sprinters on paper, yet Liquigas' Francesco Chicchi proved the prognosticators wrong by taking out the bunch kick into Modesto.
The Italian took his sixth win of the season by overpowering Saxo Bank's JJ Haedo and points leader Mark Cavendish at the end of the 195.5 kilometre stage.
"I love to race hard and win in America," said Chicchi, a two-time winner at the Tour of Missouri.
Beating Cavendish, one of the fastest men in the world, was an added bonus.
"Mark and I are rivals on the bike, but good friends outside the race,” he said. “Winning is always good, but to beat the number one is even better."
General classification leader David Zabriskie (Garmin-Transitions) finished safely in the bunch despite some damp and slippery turns in the finishing circuits, which took out several riders in addition to bringing RadioShack's Lance Armstrong to a halt inside the final 3km.
"I was really enjoying wearing the jersey in the great state of California," said Zabriskie of his first stint in the yellow leader's shirt. "This is something I've really wanted, and it's a special time for me. We were all comfortable today and we're all doing our job to keep the jersey."
There were no changes to the lead in the best young rider and points classifications as Peter Sagan (Liquigas), Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) and Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) maintained their positions in the respective competitions.
The mountains classification moved from the shoulders of Thomas Rabou (Team Type 1) and onto those of Ryan Anderson (Kelly Benefit Strategies) after the latter made the day's breakaway.
"This is a really big result for me," said Anderson. "Keeping the jersey will be important for the team. The Big Bear stage has a ton of KOMs so that can be a big day."
In the final stretch, HTC-Columbia's train was overtaken by Fly V Australia for Jonathan Cantwell first and then jumped first by Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank) before Liquigas' Francesco Chicchi powered past to claim the stage win.