Team Liquigas-Cannondale rider Peter Sagan of Slovakia receives kisses and a custom surfboard after winning Stage 2 of the Tour of California cycling race in Aptos, California, May 14, 2012. (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

APTOS, California, May 14 (Reuters) – Slovakia’s Peter Sagan recovered from an early crash to complete back-to-back stage wins in the Tour of California when he won Monday’s second stage in a sprint finish.

Sagan surged to the front of the pack coming around the final corner and burst clear to win the 189 kilometer (117 mile) stage from San Francisco to Aptos unchallenged in a time of five hours and two minutes.

Sagan now leads the eight-day event, the most prestigious professional cycling race in North America, by eight seconds over Heinrich Haussler of Australia, who crossed the line second for the second day in a row.

Australian Leigh Howard was third, trailing his compatriot by one bike’s length. He moved to third place overall, 13 seconds behind the leader, in the field of 128 riders, including 16 teams.

“I knew the last corner was close to the finish so I decided to take the turn from the first position. “And I won,” said Sagan, who lifted his tally of career stage wins in the Golden State to five.

Sagan, who recovered from a flat tire to win Sunday’s opening stage, was among 10 riders who crashed about two thirds of the way through the second stage.

None of the riders were hurt and all quickly got back in the saddle and rejoined the main pack.

“With two climbs in the end of the stage today I am really happy to win,” said Sagan.

“I was thinking when I was still in the front group on the last climb I would try and win another stage.”

Last year’s winner, American Chris Horner, finished safely in the main field for the second straight day.

The race, now its seventh year, resumes on Tuesday with the 186 kilometer (115 mile) third stage from San Jose to Livermore.