Cavendish has endured a difficult start to the season
Britain's Mark Cavendish produced a storming finish to take the first stage of the Tour of California.
The HTC-Colombia rider, who celebrates his 25th birthday midway through this week, won in four hours, four minutes and 46 seconds.
Juan Jose Haedo of Argentina was second and Norwegian Alexander Kristoff finished third on the 104.2-mile stage from Nevada City to Sacramento.
The eight-stage event culminates at Thousand Oaks on Sunday.
Lance Armstrong is also taking part in the event, having opted to miss the longer Giro d'Italia, which takes place at the same time.
Cavendish, winner of 10 Tour de France stages, has endured a difficult start to the 2010 campaign.
Complications following dental surgery put his pre-season preparations behind schedule and after only a second win of the season in April at the Tour de Romandie his frustrations got the better of him when he made a V-sign aimed at his critics, prompting his team to withdraw him from the remainder of the event.
But Cavendish was in full control as he mastered the streets of Sacramento and a breakaway group that had led for 84 miles was overhauled about 10 miles from the finishing line.
"I'm really happy," he said after the stage. "I thought it was going to be a bunch sprint and the team controlled it perfectly.
"When you've got eight guys giving 100% and all trusting each other it just works. Only one guy crossed with their hands in the air but it's a team effort.
"The beginning was quite hard when the attack was trying to go but after that the team controlled it all day to keep the gap down.
"A couple of teams helped us along the way and then we took over. We've got the best team in the world for leading out a sprint and we know not to take over too early or too late."
Meanwhile, at the Tour de Picardie in northern France there was more British success when Rotherham's Ben Swift gave Team Sky their first overall stage-race triumph.
The 22-year-old was second in Friday's opening stage, won the second stage and finished ninth on the final leg, a 174.5km run from Crepy-en-Valois to Sissonne.
It left him with a seven-second advantage as he bettered Team Sky's previous best finish, Edvald Boasson Hagen's second in February's Tour of Oman.
Spain's Koldo Fernandez De Larrea was second and Australia's Allan Davis finished third, with Swift's team-mate and fellow Yorkshireman Russell Downing fourth.