By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Italian rider Davide Cimolai won the first stage of the Tour of Catalonia on Monday, pipping Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni to the finish line by 00.04 second in a thrilling bunch sprint to claim the leader's jersey.
The finish was so close that Cimolai did not celebrate victory until minutes after crossing the finish line of the 178.9 km race, which started and ended in Calella and consisted of six major climbs.
Italian Kristian Sbaragli of Dimension Data came third.
Tour de France holder Chris Froome made his European racing debut of the season and is one of the favorites to win the general classification along with Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde, although the Briton will be at a disadvantage due to entering the season later than the Spanish duo.
Tuesday's stage is a 41.3 km time trial in Banyoles.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)