Team Sky emerged from a hectic first stage without major issues as the Giro d’Italia got off to a tricky start in Naples.
All nine riders made it to the finish of a crash-filled opening which saw the sprinters duke it out on a tight and narrow city circuit.
A significant split of 18 seconds formed between the first men to cross the line and the peloton, with Sir Bradley Wiggins safely home in the latter and awarded the same time as his general classification rivals after the three kilometre rule was applied.
Only nine riders were in a position to contest the sprint, with Mark Cavendish emerging from a difficult finale to claim victory.
The Manxman (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) found himself to the fore as the peloton split but held his nerve to become the first recipient of the maglia rosa leader’s jersey.
Cavendish was forced to freestyle in the sprint and just had enough in reserve to edge out Elia Vivani (Cannondale) and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) on the line.
Team Sky rallied around Wiggins during the relatively short opening salvo and moved to the front heading into the closing stages, yet no team was able to retain control at the head of affairs as chaos ensued.
After the stage Wiggins admitted he was happy to come through the day without issue: “It was a bit hairy as expected but we made it through," he told Sky Sports News.
"Fortunately I was in the right place at the right time and wasn’t close to the guys that went down.
“It was hot out there but that wasn’t really an issue. We’ve been training for the heat as we expected it to be quite hot here.”
Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist also talked us through the day and what proved to be a difficult test.
“It was a tight and twisty circuit and that, in combination with the first stage of a Grand Tour and some fresh riders, was always going to be tricky. In the end it worked out okay for us," the Swede revealed.
“Rigo, Xabi and Christian were a bit held back but at the end of the day they made it back having stayed safe which is the main thing.”
Attention now turns to Sunday and the team time trial on the island of Ischia.
“We’re feeling good ahead of the TTT tomorrow," Ljungqvist added. "We’re looking to take it day by day here and now we’ve got this out of the way we can start to focus on tomorrow. We’re hoping to be in the mix.”
The race kicked off under bright and sunny skies in Naples in what always looked set to be a battle of the sprint teams.
As soon as the flag dropped it was Omega Pharma – Quick-Step who moved to the head of affairs, the Belgian team controlling things as seven men headed up the road.
The escapees battled it out amongst themselves for the mountain points over two passes of the day’s single fourth-category climb – Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) winning the hard-fought battle for the blue jersey.
With a sprint finish always on the cards Cameron Wurf (Cannondale) took matters into his own hands and hit out on the circuit, putting time into his fellow escapees who were caught with 71km to go.
Wurf battled on solo until the final 25km and teams vied for position at the front of the bunch. Xabier Zandio, Danny Pate and Christian Knees put their experience to good use to drive the Team Sky effort along on the final eight laps.
A number of crashes peppered the stage, the biggest arriving in the last three kilometres in a stage the GC contenders and teams were happy to tick off.