London - Marcel Kittel has emphasised his status as the world's best sprinter by winning the opening stage of the Tour of Britain in Liverpool on Sunday.
The burly German beat Italian Nicola Ruffoni and home favourite Mark Cavendish to take victory after eight circuits of the 13.1km course in Liverpool, totalling 104.8km.
Kittel continued his impressive form from July when he won four stages at the Tour de France, including the final one on the Champs Elysees.
Cavendish's failure to upset the German was little surprise given he has only recently come back to racing following shoulder surgery after suffering a separated shoulder on the opening stage of the Tour.
However, he had made a successful comeback from injury by winning the opening two stages of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes at the end of last month.
He won three stages at this event in each of the last two seasons.
Reigning champion Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour winner, finished safely in the pack.
Kittel's victory made him the first race leader with a one second advantage over Sonny Colbrelli of Italy and Ruffoni third at 4sec.
Results after the 104.8km first stage of the Tour of Britain which got underway in Liverpool on Sunday:
Marcel Kittel (GER/Giant) 2hr 16min 35sec, 2. Nicola Ruffoni (ITA) same
time, 3. Mark Cavendish (GBR) s.t., 4. Tyler Farrar (USA) s.t., 5. Ben
Swift (GBR) s.t.
1. Marcel Kittel
(GER/Giant) 2hr 16min 35sec, 2. Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) at 1sec, 3. Nicola
Ruffoni (ITA) at 4sec, 4. Jonathan Mould (GBR) s.t., 5. Mark Cavendish
(GBR) at 6sec