Defiant Froome struggles as controversy rages on
Chris Froome finished seventh on stage two of the Ruta del Sol as Team Sky team-mate Wout Poels powered to victory.
Froome came in 27 seconds back as the four-time Tour de France winner competes for the first time since returning an adverse analytical finding for asthma drug salbutamol during his success at La Vuelta last year.
The Briton is still fighting to prove his innocence and before the event in Spain insisted he has "done nothing wrong".
Poels took centre stage for Team Sky yesterday, beating Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) to the line on the first summit finish of the five-stage race.
Froome, who won this event in 2015, admitted it is unlikely he will challenge for the Ruta del Sol crown.
"I called it pretty early. I said to the guys, 'We need to get behind Wout here'. I'm not feeling my absolute best and obviously it's my first race," he said.
"It's amazing. It's an amazing atmosphere, I mean the fans are great. I love racing out here.
"We will do absolutely everything we can to keep that leader's jersey on his shoulders."
When asked if distractions off the bike contributed to his decision, Froome responded: "Not at all. It's my first race so I wasn't expecting to smash the race."
The action took place at the end of the 140-kilometre stage from Otura to La Guardia de Jaen.
Breakaway rider Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH) fought hard to remain in front but was eventually caught by a reduced peloton with 1.8km left of the Alto de Allanadas as Poels, Jakob Fuglsang, Tim Wellens, Mikel Landa and Luis Leon Sanchez set up an exciting finish.
Wellens broke clear inside the final kilometre but the Belgian faltered on the gruelling climb.
Poels and Sanchez fought for the line, with the 30-year-old Dutchman prevailing by two seconds to win the stage and take the lead in the general classification.
Third-placed Wellens crossed the line in the same time as Sanchez, with Movistar's Landa and Astana's Fuglsang two seconds further adrift.
Marc Soler (Movistar) was 17 seconds off the pace in sixth, with Froome a further 10 seconds back.
Meanwhile, Dame Sarah Storey will make her comeback for Great Britain at next month's UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships.
Storey, 40, won three gold medals at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio before taking a break from cycling to give birth to her second child, Charlie.
She will return to the Brazilian city next month in a bid to add to her haul of 23 world titles.
Storey said: "I'm delighted to be back in the hunt for rainbow jerseys although I never expected to be back so quickly after Charlie's arrival four months ago.
"We are going into the qualification period for Tokyo 2020 so I'm excited to start the build-up for what will be my eighth Paralympic Games. I'm looking forward to seeing what the trip will bring."
Storey is joined in the squad for Rio by a number of her fellow Paralympic gold medallists, including Jody Cundy, Jon Allan-Butterworth, Louis Rolfe and Steve Bate.
Adam Duggleby, Sophie Thornhill, Helen Scott, Lora Fachie, Corinne Hall and Megan Giglia are also named.