Nacer Bouhanni remains in the race lead at the Volta a Catalunya, after winning the second stage.

The volatile Cofidis sprinter added to his opening stage victory and protected his overall lead at the end of a relatively flat 178.8-kilometre stage from Mataro to Olot

Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) finished second followed by BMC's Philippe Gilbert after just over four and a half hours of racing.

"The victory is very important for the team," Bouhanni said. "It's our fourth to start the season and that's a great a way to begin."

Race favourites Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Australia's Richie Porte (BMC) all finished safely in the pack.

Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) was the last of a small group of four escapees to be caught by the peloton near 12 kilometres from the finish.

Bouhanni said he hoped to "get another win after the mountain stages."

The route heads into the mountains next, with a 172.1-kilometre ride from Girona to La Molina in the Pyrenees.

Quiet until now, Froome, Contador, Porte, Quintana and other top climbers like Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) will find terrain suitable to their liking.

The week-long race through northeastern Spain finishes in Barcelona on Sunday.

Wednesday 23 Mar 2016

Australia's Rohan Dennis did not line up for stage 2 of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya due to illness.

BMC Racing Team doctor, Dr Daniele Zaccaria said the South Australian has flu-like symptoms and a high fever so is unable to start.

"He was feeling good until halfway through Stage 1 yesterday, however he then started to feel unwell. He was dropped in the final 10 kilometers which is unusual for him on such a course and this was an indication of his condition," Zaccaria said.

"He has a fever and didn't sleep well last night, so it is in his best interests not to start today in order to avoid any further illness and jeopardize his long term plan for this year."

Dennis is disappointed to not be continuing.

"I was feeling good when I arrived in Catalunya on Sunday. It looked like I was 100% but obviously there was something underlying and racing yesterday has flared it up. It's disappointing not to continue racing here, but I have some big goals for this year which are still to come and my health comes first," Dennis confirmed.