German rider John Degenkolb won the second stage of the Tour of Spain in a nail-biting sprint on Sunday at the end of a 181-kilometre ride from the northern city Pamplona.

Degenkolb, 23, riding for Argentina's Team Argos-Shimano, achieved his first victory on a major Tour by a hair's breadth in packed sprint for the line in Viana.

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.

Degenkolb, winner of the Tour of Picardie this year, crossed the line in the mostly flat second stage just ahead of Australian Allan Davis of the Orica-Greenedge team and Briton Ben Swift of Team Sky.

Earlier in the race a trio of Russian rider Mikhail Ignatyev (Katusha) and Spaniards Javier Chacon (Andalucia) and Javier Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural) took the lead.

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.

On Monday, the Tour will enter its first mountain stage, a 155.3 kilometre race in which favourites such as Spaniard Alberto Contador, back in the saddle after a two-year doping ban, are expected to shine. – AFP