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0km - Sixth place for Italian Daniele Bennati was enough to see the Leopard Trek rider take over the race lead from his team-mate Jakob Fuglsang.
0km - Kittel took third after a bit of a clash with Bennati on the closing straight. Farrar took fourth - and no sign of Cavendish...
0km - The hill catches everyone out and the finish is strangely subdued as Sky's Chris Sutton pips a furious Vicente Reynes (Omega Pharma-Lotto) to take the win.
0.5km - Boonen now on the front, with Bennati, Kittel and Sagen on his wheel...
1km - Some very nasty switchbacks and tight bends there as Davide Vigano has pulled out ahead and gone for a long one. But the Leopard Trek man is caught as the road rises...
2km - Leopard Trek are in TTT mode after yesterday's win. This looks good. Skil Shimano are there too, working for their man Martin Kittel.
3km - Riders are being dropped off the back like flies now they've past the 3-to-go banner. Now Leopard Trek come to the front, working for their man Bennati.
4km - They're using one side of a wide dual carriage way here - not the most sightly of approaches.
5km - Pucture for Dario Cataldo of Quick Step - that's cruel, the Italian will have a real fight to get back on the peloton.
7km - The jostling starts and it's each man for himself now. It will be very interesting to see who puts down an early marker in this race. The finish is slightly uphill so could fancy a Petacchi - although he was so poor in the Tour. Perhaps even Peter Sagan, the Slovak Gilbert, might have a pop? Although the likely money is on Cavendish...
10km - HTC's Bert Grabsch shakes his head and drops off the front. He's cooked and there are still another 10 clicks to go.
12km - News coming in of the withdrawal of Matt Goss of HTC. More on that when we get it.
13km - Torrevieja: not the prettiest part of Spain here, it has to be said... HTC are doing their thing on the front, with Hansen reeled in.
15km - There's a split in the road ahead of a large roundabout - and all those riders who chose the left way round have missed out big time. That includes many of the Lotto men. As a result, the peloton strings out.
18km - Beginning to look over his shoulder, Hansen is about to call it a day. His Omega Pharma-Lotto team-mates are on the front of the peloton, tucked in behind HTC, in a bid to protect their man Jurgen van den Broeck.
20km - Hansen's lead is down to 27 seconds. He knows, they know, we all know he won't stay out in front till the end. It's the HTC team of Mark Cavendish setting the pace. They also have the young German John Degenkolb in a very fast line-up.
24km - It's Hansen and Hansen alone now out in front after the peloton swept up the chasing duo. The Australian has 48 seconds on this coastal road as the teams of the sprinters move towards the front.
26km - There have been a series of tricky roundabouts which are really slowing the peloton down as they approach the coast. Martens and Rosendo are still out together between lone leader Hansen and the bunch.
29km - The riders approach the town of Guardamar del Segura. Hansen is still out in front alone: he has 42 seconds over the bunch, which is about to catch Steve Houanard, who has sat up.
32km - Adam Hansen puts in a big dig from the escapees. The Australian knows that something must be done if he wants any chance of getting something from today's stage: the gap is under a minute now so it's the last chance saloon here.
35km - The lead is crashing down now as it drops below the 1:30 mark. The riders are heading back to the coast after this inland segment.
40km - Rosendo is back with the three other escapees as they continue their unlikely push to stay out ahead. The lead is just over two minutes now and there is still 40km left to ride.
45km - Jesus Rosendo breaks clear of the leaders to take maximum points at the second intermediate sprint at Dolores. The Spaniard now has done enough to ensure he'll be wearing the points jersey tonight on the podium, which will be a coup for his Andalucia Caja Granada squad.
55km - The four leaders have 3:42 over the peloton. Back with the bunch, Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara drops to his team car to fill up his shirt with bidons for his team-mates. He looks like the Michelin Man now...
65km - Rosendo discards a semi-full water bottle on the side of the road, throwing it at exactly the same time as a motorbike passes. The result: the bike rides over the bottle, spraying its riders with water as a grinning Resendo looks on.
70km - Of the four leaders, Rabobank's Paul Martens looks the most relaxed: the sun is beating down, they've been out ahead for almost 100km, and the German hardly looks like he's broken into a sweat. Back in the bunch, HTC and Liquigas are beginning to make their presence known on the front.
75km - Having passed through the town of Elche, the four leaders have seen their gap increase to 5:58. They're riding well together and will not let this one go without a fight.
80km - The riders pass through the feeding zone at Suministro. They've popped inland a bit after leading the Mediterranean coast after the intermediate sprint. The next 45km are inland before the riders return to the coast for the final 30-odd kilometres of today's stage.
85km - Jesus Rosendo takes the intermediate sprint at Santa Pola ahead of Adam Hansen and Steve Houanard. The peloton are riding at 4:35.
90km - Martens is the best placed rider in the GC of the four leaders: he's 30 seconds down on Jakob Fuglsang. And if not in red tonight (unlikely given the flat terrain and the probably bunch print) the German will have the king of the mountains jersey on his shoulders yesterday after picking up the points atop the climb earlier today.
95km - With the intermediate sprint getting closer, the lead of the four escapees has dropped below the five-minute mark.
100km - The four leaders - Paul Martens (Rabobank), Adam Hansen (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Steve Houanard (Ag2R) and Jesus Rosendo Prado (Andalucia Caja Granada) - have 5:28 over the bunch with 100km left to ride of today's stage.
105km - Puncture for Liquigas all-rounder Vincenzo Nibali, the reigning champion. Carlos Sastre (Geox) also has some mechanical problems and needs to drop back for assistance.
115km - The lead of the four escapees is up to six minutes.
130km - The leaders still have a little over five minutes over the pack as they continue along a small plateau after the only climb of the day. Soon they will hit a short and steep downhill segment that will take them down into the valley.
135km - The average speed for the first hour of racing was 35.2 km/h.
138km - Martens crosses the summit of the third category Alto de Relleu in pole position ahead of Rosendo and Hansen. The Rabobank rider will be the first polka dot jersey of the race. The peloton are 5:18 in arrears as the sun continues to shine: temperatures are in the high 30s.
140km - Jesus Rosendo puts in an attack in a bid to snatch those mountain points. He wore the jersey back in 2008 and he's clearly looking to be the first owner of the polka dot jersey this time round. Both Hansen and Martens manage to catch the Spaniard up on this third category climb, but the French rookie Houanard has been distanced.
145km - The four escapees have built up a lead of 5:15 as they approach the third category climb of Alto de Relleu. Back in the bunch, it's the Leopard Trek team of red jersey Jakob Fuglsang who are setting the pace.
150km - Frenchman Steve Houanard (Ag2R), 25, is riding his debut Vuelta and has no UCI wins to his name. Finally, 30-year-old Australian Adam Hansen (Omega Pharma Lotto) is riding his third Vuelta. Hansen joined Lotto from HTC last winter and has four minor UCI wins to his name.
155km - Jesus Rosendo is a 29-year-old Spaniard who wore the kind of the mountains jersey for five days during the 2008 Vuelta. Rosendo has been at Andalucia Caja Granada throughout his career and this is his fourth Vuelta appearance. This year he took a maiden career win in Trinidad at the Rutas de America race.
155km - Let's take a quick look at the four leaders, starting with Rabobank's Paul Martens. The 27-year-old is riding his second Vuelta after making his debut in the 2009 edition. No wins this season, Martens took the GP de Wallonie in 2010 and on stage two of the Tour of Luxembourg back in 2006.
160km - The four escapees increase their lead to just over two minutes - it looks like this one is going to stick.
165km - It's been a tricky start for Movistar, whose riders seem to be suffering from numerous mechanical problems. The latest is Imanol Erviti, who needs a bike change.
165km - Those four leaders are: Paul Martens (Rabobank), Adam Hansen (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Steve Houanard (Ag2R) and Jesus Rosendo Prado (Andalucia Caja Granada). They now have 1:15 over the bunch.
170km - The riders of Spanish Continental Pro outfit Andalucia Caja Granada, last in yesterday's TTT, set the early pace. Movistar have encountered a few mechanical problems already, with Benat Intxausti needing to stop for attention. Four riders try their luck early on and they build up a small gap over the peloton - names coming up.
172km - They're off! The 198 riders leave the official start to get this first road stage under way. Temperatures are up to a huge 37 degrees celsius. It's going to be a sweltering day in the saddle out there, that's for sure...
12:30 - The last rider to sign on today was Belgian Nick Nuyens, who crashed yesterday after picking up a puncture. The Saxo Bank man fell heavily on his side and will gingerly take to today's start. He says he's in a lot of pain.
12:25 - The riders are in the neutral zone now ahead of today's start. The flat finish at Orihuela should suit the likes of Cavendish, Farrar, Petacchi, Bennati, Boonen, Freire and Kittel - although with that early climb on the agenda, a break is likely to form early on the road.
12:20 - Danish rider Jakob Fuglsang led Leopard Trek across the line in pole position and he will wear the leader's red jersey today for the first proper road stage. General Classification
12:15 - Leopard Trek won the opening TTT yesterday in Benidorm on a day in which Britain's Bradley Wiggins suffered after his team, Sky, limped home in 20th place. Report: Leopard Trek take Vuelta TTT win
12:10 - It's another lovely sunny day in Spain, with temperatures hovering over 30 degrees celsius at the finish in Orihuela. It's even hotter at the start in La Nucia - and there's hardly a cloud in the sky. Weather report
12:00 - Welcome to live coverage of stage two of the Vuelta a Espana, a 171.5km ride along the Costa Blanca from La Nucia to Playas de Orihuela. It's a flat finish that should present the sprinters with an early chance to take a win - although the stage does include the first climb of this year's race, the third-category Alto de Relleu, which comes 28km into the stage.