German sprinter Marcel Kittel picked up his eighth win of the season and first at the Amgen Tour of California in the race opener Sunday.

German sprinter Marcel Kittel picked up his eighth win of the season — 80th of pro career and first at the Amgen Tour of California — at the end of the 167.5km opening stage of the seven-day UCI WorldTour stage race in Sacramento on Sunday.

The recently turned 29-year-old (May 11), who is fresh off his fifth Scheldeprijs win, perfectly launched off the wheel of his Quick-Step Floors lead-out man Fabio Sabatini (ITA) inside the closing 300 meters to outsprint reigning two-time world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Elia Viviani (Team Sky) at the stage capital finish.

Stage 1, top 10

General classification, top 10

“I’m happy with how intelligent and strong my team was in the end,” Kittel said. “It was really nice and also promising for the next week.”

The stage was flat with no KOMs, and featured three laps of a 3.5km finishing circuit to close the stage.

The day kicked off with a four-rider break shortly after the start. Floris Gerts (BMC Racing), Charles Planet (Team Novo Nordisk), Jonny Clarke (UnitedHealthcare) and Ben Wolfe (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) opened up 2-minute 30-second gap at its max before the field began to reel the quartet back.

The climber Clarke was a somewhat odd member of the breakaway on flat roads. The Australian said he hoped his finishes in the intermediate sprints secured a preferential spot for the UnitedHealthCare team car in the race caravan for stage 2.

“It’s a WorldTour race so we have to get out and show ourselves,” Clarke said. “We’re not a WorldTour team and we can’t hang back. We’ll of course give it a go with our top guys. The goal is to show our jersey.”

As the group rumbled back into Sacramento the peloton had pegged the gap back to a handful of seconds. Quick-Step, which had monitored the peloton for much of the day, took control of the pack with 5km to go and ramped up the pace. Jack Bauer, Quick Step’s time trial specialist from New Zealand, towed the group into the final kilometer, just before Quick Step’s sprint train launched Kittel to the win.

“The goal was to bring Marcel into pole position in the final, and that’s what we did,” Bauer said. “You put Marcel on a straight road and he knows what to do.”

Both Bauer and Kittel said the result bodes well for the team’s ambitions at the upcoming Tour de France. After the Amgen Tour, Quick-Step’s California squad will travel to Colorado to do some training at altitude before heading back to Europe.

“All of the riders you have here are all coming out of an easy period of training period after the Classics,” Kittel said. “Everyone is building up again for the Tour and being here it is the first moment where you can see how other teams are doing and you can see how other teams have some guys that will go to the tour. When I look to us, we can be happy that we worked so well together today.”

With the win, Kittel moves into yellow leaders jersey for what is expected to be a short reign with a mountainous 143km stage from Modesto to San Jose on Monday. Stage two offers six category climbs, the toughest up Mount Hamilton.

Stage five features a steep and long ascent to Mount Baldy among three category climbs.

Sprinters will have a penultimate sixth-stage 24km time trial Friday at Big Bear Lake to regain any lost ground ahead of the final 125km stage down to the finish.

Stage 1 results

General classification