MODESTO, Calif. -- Italian rider Francesco Chicchi emerged from a mass sprint to upset Mark Cavendish and win stage 4 of the Tour of California on Wednesday, while American David Zabriskie held onto his slim overall lead.
Chicchi completed the 121.5-mile ride from San Jose to Modesto in 4 hours, 55 minutes and 2 seconds. The Liquigas rider narrowly held off Juan Jose Haedo of Saxo-Bank and Cavendish, the HTC-Columbia rider who won the opening stage. Both had the same time as the winner.
"Mark and I are rivals on the bike, but we are good friends off the bike," said the 29-year-old Chicchi, who claimed his fifth win of the season. "Winning is always good, but to beat the No. 1 is even better."
Zabriskie, riding for Garmin-Transitions, kept the lead he assumed while winning stage 3 in Santa Cruz. Michael Rogers of HTC-Columbia is 4 seconds behind, followed by three-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer of RadioShack, who is 6 seconds off the pace.
The top three riders in the overall standings finished in the main field and there were no changes in the top 10.
Leipheimer's teammate, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, began the day in 12th overall but crashed on the final circuit. Armstrong was given the same finishing time as the main group because the crash occurred within the final three kilometers.
Chicchi, who has teammates currently competing in the Giro d'Italia, is racing in California for the second straight year. He's won stages the past two years of the Tour of Missouri.
Cavendish, who has won 10 stages of the Tour de France the past two years, has more than 60 pro wins and is generally considered cycling's best sprinter.
"In the final lap we were missing Tony Martin because of a flat," said Rolf Aldag, an HTC-Columbia team director. "Mark Remshaw set up Cavendish, but he just wasn't fast enough. You don't win all the time."
Zabriskie, the only American to win stages of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana, was surrounded by teammates for most of the stage. When the field split late in the race, Zabriskie rode alone for a short distance and easily returned to the leading group.
"It was a great day and it was a good stay to stay in the front and stay put of trouble," Zabriskie said. "I can't say that I was in a different mind set, but the team all works together well and we were able to keep the [leader's] jersey."
The fifth stage Thursday takes riders on a 121.5-mile trip from Visalia to Bakersfield, through the San Joaquin Valley and into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The race finishes Sunday in Thousand Oaks, Calif.