World champion Mark Cavendish sprinted to an emphatic win on the second stage of the Giro d'Italia.
The Team Sky rider was brilliantly led out by Geraint Thomas at the end of the 206 kilometres route around the Danish city of Herning before moving alongside Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) and accelerating past his former team-mate for a clear-cut triumph, Geoffrey Soupe (FDJ-Big Mat) taking third.
There was drama in behind when Theo Bos crashed on the final corner, careering into Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and halting a large proportion of the peloton.
It was Cavendish's eighth individual stage victory at the Giro, his fifth success of the campaign and his first since the birth of his first child last month.
The triumph saw him move to the top of the points standings, claiming the red jersey which had been sported by Thomas on behalf of Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing), the winner of the opening time trial.
And the final stages also saw a late scare for race leader Phinney who had a mechanical problem with 8km remaining.
That put the maglia rosa under real threat as he lost over half a minute on the peloton but with help from team-mate Danilo Wyss he had enough time to chase back to the front group and protect his nine seconds advantage from Team Sky's Thomas.
After the finish Cavendish described the way the day had panned out, confirming: "There was lots of wind on the coast. We were monitoring things and in control. We had Ian Stannard on the front. He did 150 kilometres alone reeling in the break he did incredible.
"The guys were so great and they stayed together. We had a mixture of the old guard and new people. Jez Hunt, Bernie Eisel - experienced guys with G too. And guys like Pete who are pretty new and who I've not worked with before.
"Everybody handled it well and we stayed together as a team. I was really looked after at the finish and kept sheltered. Geraint took me perfect and went exactly when he was supposed to. I was able to come off him and win the stage so I'm very very happy."
The Manxman also admitted that the hotly-contested finish was far from straightforward, adding: "It was getting sketchy. Especially when you have fresh teams if they aren't riding all day and then come up with a fresh sprinter it can become quite dangerous. But as long as you are well looked after it's okay and I was looked after great by the guys."
Barely out of the top 20 riders during the day, Cavendish had been protected superbly by his Team Sky colleagues and kept towards the business end of the peloton throughout a potentially difficult stage.
From the gun three attackers went clear, with Alfredo Balloni (Farnese Vini), Miguel Angel Rubiano (Androni Giocattoli) and Olivier Kaisen (Lotto-Belisol) stretching out their advantage to 13 minutes and 15 seconds on the run towards the coast.
A stretch of road highlighted by many in the lead-up to the event, the coastal road between Sondervig and Lemvig was earmarked as a potential risk, yet a lack of cross-winds meant the sprinters' teams worked together to keep tabs on the break.
As the race moved inland a brief attack by Saxo Bank was neutralised and with 90km to go it was Team Sky who took to the front with numbers, seizing control of the race, with Ian Stannard in particular putting in a huge shift.
With the breakaway finally reeled in after Balloni had claimed the first blue mountains jersey of the race, Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol) went on a crowd-pleasing attack in front of his home fans, building up a gap of 45 seconds before being hauled back.
Crossing the finish line for the first time with 12.5km to go it was all together and Team Sky continued to set the pace on the front to set up a frantic finale.
Peter Kennaugh played a key role inside the final couple of kilometres when he dropped back to latch onto Thomas and Cavendish as Garmin-Barracuda and Orica-GreenEDGE both came to the head of affairs.
The world champion continued to stay on Thomas' wheel and he made a perfectly-timed move with around 400 metres to go as he ranged up alongside Goss before surging to victory.
He will now look to repeat the feat in Monday's third stage around Horsens which looks another one for the sprinters to take centre stage before the race moves to Italy.
As far as the general classification is concerned, Cavendish is up to 12th place, 27 seconds behind Phinney, while the rest of Team Sky's squad all came home in the front group to maintain their positions.