German rider John Degenkolb (above) won the second stage of the Tour of Spain in a nail-biting packed sprint finish on Sunday at the end of a 181-kilometre ride from the northern city of Pamplona to Viana. Degenkolb, riding for Dutch Team Argos-Shimano, achieved his first victory on a major Tour by a hair's breadth after 4hr 38min 40sec in the saddle ahead of Australian Allan Davis of Orica-Greenedge and Briton Ben Swift of Team Sky.
But Spaniard Jonathan Castroviejo of Team Movistar kept the overall leader's red jersey after snatching first place in the opening 16.5km team time-trial at the start of the Tour the previous day.
"I don't know how long I will be able to wear this jersey. Tomorrow I have to help the team leaders," the 25-year-old Castroviejo said. "This stage was not too difficult. The wind, which we were worried about for the final part, didn't blow in the end."
Race favourite Alberto Contador of Spain, back in the saddle after a two-year doping ban, crossed the line in 33rd position, and is sitting 32nd in the overall standings. Earlier in the race a trio including Russian rider Mikhail Ignatyev (Katusha) and Spaniards Javier Chacon (Andalucia) and Javier Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural) took the lead in the mostly flat stage.
The three cyclists broke away from the pack from the sixth kilometre, building a lead of up to five minutes before being caught towards the end. But their efforts were not all in vain as Chacon won the polka dot "king of the mountains" jersey for his climb of the Chapela summit, the only serious ascent.
Chacon took the jersey only after first-placed Aramendia was relegated for an infringement on the climb. With just 22 kilometres to go to the finish, Chacon flagged and left the lead to Ignatyev and Aramendia. The leading pair gradually ceded their advantage, though, and were caught up by scores of other racers with 12 kilometres to go.
Uzbekistan's Sergey Lagutin of Vacansoleil then tried to get away from the pack but could not pull away. The Vuelta also claimed its first victim Sunday as Italian Enrico Gasparotto of Astana failed to start the second stage after falling and breaking his collarbone during the team time-trial the day before.
On Monday, the Tour will enter its first mountain stage, a 155.3 kilometre race in which favourites such as Contador are expected to shine.
1. John Degenkolb (GER/Argos-Shimano) 4hr 38min 40sec (average: 39.1
2. Allan Davis (AUS/Orica-Greenedge) same time
3. Ben Swift (ENG/Team Sky) s.t.
4. Elia Viviani (ITA/LOQ) s.t.
5. Klaas Lodewyck (BEL/BMC) s.t.
6. Vicente Reynes (ESP/LTB) s.t.
7. Davide Cimolai (ITA/LAM) s.t.
8. Gianni Meersman (BEL/LTB) s.t.
9. Manuel Cardoso (POR/CJR) s.t.
10. Daniele Bennati (ITA/RNT) s.t.
11. Ruben Perez Moreno (ESP/EUS) s.t.
12. Koldo Fernandez (ESP/GRS) s.t.
13. Gert Steegmans (BEL/OPQ) s.t.
14. Dennis van Winden (NED/RAB) s.t.
15. Juan Jose Lobato (ESP/ACG) s.t.
16. Nacer Bouhanni (FRA/FDJ) s.t.
17. Pim Ligthart (NED/VCD) s.t.
18. Lloyd Mondory (FRA/ALM) s.t.
19. Zdenek Stybar (CZE/OPQ) s.t.
20. Yoann Bagot (FRA/COF) s.t.
24. Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP/MOV) s.t.
29. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) s.t.
33. Alberto Contador (ESP/STB) s.t.
42. Juan Jose Cobo (ESP/MOV) s.t.
1. Jonathan Castroviejo (ESP/MOV) 4hr 57min 31sec
2. Nairo Alexander Quintana (COL/MOV) at 01sec
3. Javier Moreno (ESP/MOV) 01
4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 01
5. Benat Intxausti (ESP/MOV) 01
6. Juan Jose Cobo (ESP/MOV) 04
7. Dennis Van Winden (NED/RAB) 10
8. Niki Terpstra (NED/OPQ) 10
9. Kevin De Weert (BEL/OPQ) 10
10. Alessandro Ballan (ITA/BMC) 10
11. Philippe Gilbert (BEL/BMC) 10
12. Lars Boom (NED/RAB) 10
13. Serge Pauwels (BEL/OPQ) 10
14. Bauke Mollema (NED/RAB) 10
15. Robert Gesink (NED/RAB) 10
16. Amaël Moinard (FRA/BMC) 10
17. Dario Cataldo (ITA/BMC) 10
18. Brent Bookwalter (USA/BMC) 10
19. Steve Morabito (SUI/BMC) 10
20. Juan Manuel Garate (ESP/RAB) 10
24. Christopher Froome (GBR/SKY) 12
25. Alberto Contador (ESP/STB) 14
36. Denis Menchov (RUS/KAT) 15