Chris Froome's steady start to the 2018 season continued at the Ruta del Sol as he finished seventh in a second stage won by Sky team-mate Wout Poels.
Froome is riding amid continuing controversy regarding a failed drugs test, with a urine sample revealing twice the permitted amount of the asthma drug salbutamol in his system during last year's Vuelta a Espana, and ended the opening stage in the peloton.
And that was where the British rider remained for much of Thursday, before Sky came to the front of the chasing pack as Alexis Gougeard, Diego Rubio and Pascal Eenkhoorn broke clear.
That trio were steadily reeled back in as the gradient increased and Poels edged ahead of Tim Wellens, of Lotto Soudal, and Astana Pro Team's Luis Leon Sanchez, with Froome 27 seconds back.
Froome, the 2015 winner, trails Poels by the same margin in the general classification.
Friday's third stage will take the riders on the 166km route from Mancha Real to Herrera.