Australian Cadel Evans, a firm favourite for the Giro d'Italia title, took possession of the race leader's pink jersey after Sunday's second stage, won by American sprinter Tyler Farrar.
Evans, the reigning world champion, was third in the individual time-trial first stage won by Bradley Wiggins on Saturday and now sits one second ahead of Farrar in the overall standings.
Farrar, riding for the Garmin-Transitions team, recorded his first ever Giro stage win in the 209km run from Amsterdam to Utrecht that saw several falls.
In a sprint finish, the 25-year-old American saw off Australian Matthew Goss, Italian Fabio Sabatini and German Andre Greipel.
"To win at Giro d'Italia is a dream come true," said Farrar. "Since this morning I felt a great tension but I also felt in great condition. I wanted very much to prove my worth and that all the victories last year were not just a one-off. You can bet on me in every sprint of this Giro d'Italia."
Germany's Paul Voss led a breakaway from the first kilometre with three other riders that opened up the race until the last 25km.
Evans is in the 'maglia rosa' for the second time in his career, having briefly held the race lead in 2002 before finishing 14th overall.
"I think you need to be good from the start to the finish of any three-week Tour," Evans said. "But also I'm the rider who lost the Tour de France by 23 seconds, so maybe I look at it differently than most riders do."
Evans added that nerves among the riders had not helped a tough stage.
"Today was one of the most ridiculously dangerous and nervous stages I have ridden in my entire career," he said. "I don't know why everyone was so nervous today. Maybe it's a little bit of inexperience or something where you take a Grand Tour group and put it on these roads, which are a little bit more of the Classics guys' environment."
BMC team director John Lelangue said he did not expect Evans to have the race lead so soon in the 21-day race.
"But the most important point is taking time from other contenders," Lelangue said. "We want to be in the first group every day and not to lose time and then come into the last 10 days in good position. That's always the objective of the team."
Riders will tackle a 224km run from Amsterdam to Middelburg for Monday's third stage.
© AFP 2010
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