Sunderland (IsoWhey Sports Swisswellness) finished ahead of Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data) and Nicolas Marini of Nippo-Vini Fantini at the end of the 124.8km stage from Kuala Berang to Kuala Terengganu.
It was a crash-marred finale with 10km to go after Loh Sea Keong (Thailand Continental Team) was the last of the 10-rider break to resist.
“Getting the win and the yellow jersey for IsoWhey Sport Swisswellness on our debut here sets up the team for a good Tour and hopefully I’ll get one more stage victory”, Sunderland said. “It was a pretty chaotic finale but the team got me ride in a pretty good position.
"The crash was close to where I was so I was lucky to get through that and be able to finish off the job with the sprint. Such a win gives you the confidence that you can win another stage. That would be fantastic but it’s already amazing to be here in the lead. I’ll try to hold on to the yellow jersey as long as I can, it’s an amazing event.”
Next up for the peloton will be the 208km second stage which is set up as the longest of the 2017 race.