Nicolas Roche has taken the race lead after Stage 2 of Vuelta a Espana in Calpe this afternoon.

The stage was won by Nairo Quintana (Movistar) but Roche led the chasing pack home to finish in second place, five seconds behind the winner. 

Roche, who rides for Team Sunweb, enjoyed a seven-second advantage over Quintana following the opening stage time trial which means the heads the field by two seconds at this early stage of the Vuelta.

The last time Roche led in general classification in a Grand Tour was at the Vuelta in 2015, when he also took the lead after Stage 2.

He went on to win a stage that year, taking Stage 18 at Riaza and finishing sixth overall. 

The last - and only - Irish cyclist to win the Vuelta a Espana was Sean Kelly in 1988. 

"It's an amazing feeling," the 35-year-old said on Eurosport. "It's been six years now since I had the red jersey so it's an amazing day. Just to be back in the leader's jersey of a Grand Tour, I'm speechless.

"I was expecting there would be a 25 or 30-man group and a sprint and it would be guys like (Philippe) Gilbert for the jersey.

"Until the final 20 kilometres I didn't think about it."

The race blew apart on the steep slopes of the category two Alto de Puig Llorenca with a little over 20 kilometres to go.

Roche and Sunweb made their move as the race briefly threatened to come back together, soon joined by Movistar's Quintana, as well as Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First), Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates).

Quintana attacked again as the finish line approached, and the 2016 Vuelta winner has laid down an important marker as he sits just two seconds behind Roche overall.