Mark Cavendish leads a stage race for the first time in four years after the opening day of the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali on Tuesday.
The first day featured two half-stages – Stage 1a and 1b – and Cavendish started by coming second in a sprint finish on the first stage.
His team, Deceuninck-QuickStep, then finished third behind winners Israel Start-Up Nation and second-placed Astana-Premier Tech in the team time trial.
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"To be leading a race for the first time in four years is super nice," said Cavendish, who is two seconds ahead of Israel Start-Up Nation’s Alex Dowsett, Ben Hermans, James Piccoli, Guy Niv, Alessandro De Marchi and Sebastian Berwick.
"With Deceuninck-QuickStep we only have five guys here so our backs were up against the wall a little bit but everyone looked after me so well this morning and I'm sorry I couldn't pay them back with a win.
"In the team time trial we gave everything and it will be nice to wear the leader's jersey for a day."
Cavendish last led a stage race at the Abu Dhabi Tour in 2017 but has found some form this season as he came second at the GP Monsere two weeks ago, his highest-placed finish since June 2018.
Jakub Mareczko (Vini Zabu) won the bunch sprint on the opening stage of the race ahead of Cavendish, Marius Mayrhofer (Team DSM) and Luca Coati (Team Qhubeka).
The race continues on Wednesday with a 163km stage from Riccione to Sogliano al Rubicone.

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