Gruissan - Belgian Yves Lampaert won the second stage of the Vuelta a Espana and took the overall lead of the race with a late attack on the 203.4km ride from Nimes to Gruissan on Sunday.
Lampaert won from teammate Matteo Trentin in a time of 4hr 36min 13sec as Quick-Step Floors caught the peloton napping with two kilometres to go with Britain's Adam Blythe in third.
Splits in the peloton meant the overall contenders were distanced as Vincenzo Nibali clawed back some of the 22 seconds he lost to Tour de France champion Chris Froome on the opening stage team time trial.
The 10-second time bonus on offer to stage winners moved Lampaert to the top of the general classification standings, a second ahead of Trentin with Italian Daniel Oss third.
With nine summit finishes to come, the flat route in southern France was supposed to offer a rare chance for sprinters to shine, but strong crosswinds made the peloton susceptible to attacks.
Quick-Step took advantage with a three-pronged attack three kilometres from the line, opening up the gap Lampaert needed for his first Grand Tour stage win.
"I knew I could ride one kilometre very fast and it worked out," said Lampaert after taking the leader's red jersey.
Nibali finished in the lead group with Froome eight seconds back alongside 2015 Vuelta winner Fabio Aru and Adam Yates.
However, Alberto Contador lost a further five seconds on Froome in his final race before retirement to fall 31 seconds back on the four-time Tour de France winner.
Froome is aiming to become just the third rider to ever win the Tour and Vuelta in the same year.
The Briton is ninth in the overall standings, 21 seconds behind Lampaert.
Stage three sees the first category-one climbs as the race exits France on a 158.5km ride from Prades-Andorra la Vella on Monday.
The first stage in Spain isn't till Tuesday with heightened security measures to be put in place following a pair of terror attacks in Barcelona and the nearby seaside resort of Cambrils that left 14 dead and over a hundred injured.
The finish line for the fourth stage of the Vuelta is just 20 kilometres along the Mediterranean coast from Cambrils in Tarragona.
Results from the second stage of the Vuelta a Espana on Sunday, a 203.4km ride from Nimes to Gruissan on Sunday.
1. Yves Lampaert (BEL/QST) 4hrs 36mins 13secs., 2. Matteo Trentin (ITA/QST) same time, 3. Adam Blythe (GBR/ABS) s.t, 4. Edward Theuns (BEL/TRE) s.t., 5. Sacha Modolo (ITA/EAU) s.t., 6. Michael Schwarzmann (GER/BOR) s.t., 7. Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL/CAN) s.t., 8. Daniel Oss (ITA/BMC) s.t., 9. Patrick Konrad (AUT/BOR) s.t., 10. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/BAH) s.t.
11. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) 0:05., 16. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 0:08, 19. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) s.t., 23. Rafal Majka (POL/BOR) s.t., 29. Adam Yates (GBR/ORI) s.t., 48. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 0:13. 62. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) s.t., 70. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) s.t.
1. Yves Lampaert (BEL/Quick Step) 4hrs 52mins 07secs, 2. Matteo Trentin (ITA/QST) at 0:01., 3. Daniel Oss (ITA/BMC) 0:03, 4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 0:17, 5. Nicolas Roche (IRL/BMC) 0:17, 6. Rohan Dennis (AUS/BMC) 0:17, 7. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/QST) 0:18, 8. Wilco Kelderman (NED/SUN) 0:18, 9. Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) 0:21, 10. Wouter Poels (NED/SKY) 0:21.
12. Warren Barguil (FRA/SUN) 0:23, 17. Esteban Chaves (COL/ORI) 0:26, 19. Adam Yates (GBR/ORI) 0:29, 22. Simon Yates (GBR/ORI) 0:34, 24. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/BAH) 0:35, 47. Alberto Contador (ESP/TRE) 0:52, 50. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 0:53, 65. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 1:03.