SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Ben Swift of Britain emerged from a massive sprint finish and took the lead Monday after winning the 76.3-mile, weather-shortened and rainy opening stage of the Tour of California.

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Swift, 23, who competes for Team Sky, completed the road race from Nevada City to the state capital in 2 hours, 47 minutes and 12 seconds and earned his fifth win of the season.

Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) of Slovakia was second, and Matthew Goss (HTC- Highroad) of Australia was third in the pack finish, about a bike length behind.

“It was absolutely perfect. The team opened up the door for me,” said Swift, who had several teammates at the front of the pack as the event approach the finish line on the last of three concluding circuits.

“When I looked at the race, there were four of five stages where I thought I could do well, including yesterday. Unfortunately, we didn’t race yesterday, so there are three or four more left”

With 10 seconds of bonus time for his victory, Swift leads the overall competition by 4 seconds over Sagan. Goss is third, trailing by 6 seconds.

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“The rain helped,” said Swift, a former track rider of the late afternoon that made the finishing circuit’s roads slick. “I grew up riding in the rain. It puts fear into some riders and it helped us control it.”

Laszlo Bodrogi (Team Type 1) of France, Tim Seubert (Team NetApp) of Germany and Americans Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell) and James Driscoll (Jamis-Sutter Home) broke from the 144-rider field after about 10 miles.

The foursome built more than a four-minute lead. Jacques- Maynes, the last of the lead group in front, was caught by the field with about eight miles left.

Originally scheduled as the second stage, the first day of competition in the seven-day race was reduced from 133.2 miles because of snowy conditions at high elevations near the planned start at Squaw Valley.

The original opening stage from South Lake Tahoe to Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort was canceled Sunday because of snowy and wet road conditions.

The seven-day race continues Tuesday with a 121.9-mile road race from Auburn to Modesto.

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(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)