SAVANNAH, Ga. — Ivan Dominguez gently shrugged off his Toyota-United teammates when they told him the first stage of the Tour de Georgia would be all his — short, flat and ideal for strong sprinters.
He was being too modest.
Domniguez, of Cuba, won the 71.8-mile opening stage of the weeklong Georgia race Monday, sprinting across the finish line a tenth of a second ahead of a crowded peloton.
"I had a lot of guys saying, 'Yeah, tomorrow's for you, short and flat the way you like,' and I was like, 'sure,"' Dominguez said. "I was really surprised when I won, because I'm not doing 100 percent yet."
Dominguez finished the stage from Tybee Island to Savannah in 2 hours, 30 minutes, 18 seconds. Right at his elbows were Nicholas Sanderson of Australia in second place, followed by Robert Forster of Germany. Both finished 0.1 seconds behind the leader.
The 592-mile race beginning on the coastal Georgia beaches moves to its second stage Tuesday from Statesboro to Augusta. It finishes Sunday with a circuit race in Atlanta.
The short distance Monday gave riders virtually no chance to break away from the pack. All but three of the 119 cyclists swarmed the finish line in historic downtown Savannah less than a second apart.
"I had the whole team surrounding me with 10 kilometers to go, and in the last 1K or so it all came open," said Sanderson of the Jelly Belly team.
Tyler Farrar of the United States placed last after suffering a flat tire in the last 3 kilometers of the stage.
Crosswinds were less of a problem than racers expected as they crossed the causeway linking Tybee Island to Savannah, with only mild winds that failed to scatter the pack.
"I was here for two days prior to the race and there's (normally) a substantial amount of crosswind, especially in the first 15 to 20 kilometers of the race," said Scott Nydam of the United States, who finished 65th for BMC Racing. "The race didn't splinter nearly as much as we anticipated."
Dominguez made no predictions about holding his lead in the second stage through eastern Georgia. The 115-mile stretch isn't very hilly, but it's more than 40 miles longer than the first stage.
"Tomorrow is a lot longer. We'll see what happens." said Dominguez, who won stages last year at the Tour of California and the Tour of Missouri.