Madrid - Dutchman Wout Poels, a Sky team-mate of Chris Froome, won the second stage of the Ruta del Sol in southern Spain on Thursday to take the overall lead in the five-day race.
Poels crossed the line first in the summit finish after the 140km ride from Otura to just outside Jaen in Andalusia, winning by a margin of two seconds from Spain's Luis Leon Sanchez and Tim Wellens of Belgium.
Four-time Tour de France winner Froome, meanwhile, was seventh on the stage, 27 seconds behind his colleague.
Two years ago, Poels was Froome's super domestique on the Tour and his form was such that many observers tipped him as a potential team leader who could challenge for victory in his own right.
Froome is making his first appearance since it was revealed in December that he had given an abnormal doping test on last year's Vuelta a Espana, which he won.
The 32-year-old has the right to ride because salbutamol, the substance that showed up in the test, is an anti-asthma drug which can be taken legally and so does not lead to an automatic ban.
The UCI have asked Froome to explain why twice the allowed limit showed up in his sample, but they have not yet ruled on the case.