OYONNAX (France) (AFP) - Italian Elia Viviani of the Cannondale team outsprinted Belgium's Gianni Meersman and Tony Gallopin of France to win the second stage of cycling's Criterium du Dauphine after 191km from Chatel to Oyonnax on Monday.
Canadian David Veilleux of Europcar, the first-stage winner, retained the overall leader's jersey.
It was the 24-year-old Viviani's first win this season and came after he twice finished second to sprint king Mark Cavendish at last month's Giro d'Italia.
With few top sprinters at the hilly, week-long stage race, which serves as a key build-up to next month's Tour de France, he imposed himself easily in the sprint finish, helped by the fact the peloton was reduced in size owing to the lumpy final 60km, which had removed French champion Nacer Bouhanni and Norwegian counterpart Thor Hushovd from the reckoning.
It was his participation in the Giro that Viviani believes gave him the edge over his rivals.
"The distance was an advantage. Coming from the Giro, I had more reserves than the others," said one of the new generation of Italian sprinters, hoping to fill the void left by greats Mario Cipollini and Alessandro Pettachi.
"I came to the Dauphine for two reasons, firstly so the team would have a leader as the others are riding the Tour of Switzerland, and also to have the chance of winning, which I had yet to do this season," added Viviani.
"At the Giro I was twice second behind Mark Cavendish, who was in great form. It was difficult to beat him but after the Giro I recovered well and remained concentrated."
On a stage including six categorised climbs, although none too taxing, a four-man breakaway tried their luck but Veilleux's Europcar team never let them get too far down the road as they worked hard to keep hold of the leader's jersey.
"My team-mates did a great job, I owe them one. We let a four-man break get away and we managed it well," said the Canadian, who does not expect to hold onto his lead for more than another 24 hours.
"We hope to keep the jersey tomorrow (Tuesday) but Wednesday's time trial, we'll see."
In the finale, Cofidis team-mates Rudy Molard of France and Estonian Rein Taaramae both had a solo crack for home, as did Juan Antonio Flecha, but none could make it stick on a speedy finish to the stage.
Tuesday's third stage will see the riders tackle a 167km course from Amberieu-en-Bugey to Tarare.