Chris Froome described the support he received from fellow riders on his return at the Ruta del Sol as "touching".
The Team Sky rider, who is in the midst of a drugs test controversy, finished safely among the peloton in Spain on Wednesday.
But the Briton was moved by the reaction of his competitors, who he insists gave him a warm welcome.
"It's the first race in the build-up to the Giro [d'Italia] now and it's good to be back racing," said the four-time Tour de France champion.
"I always enjoy racing in Spain, it's a great atmosphere here again.
"What was very touching was how many riders from other teams came up to me during the stage to offer their support. That was very touching.
"Obviously it's been the first time since I've seen a lot of guys now since this all happened, so it's great to be able to catch up with them in person and see how much support there is out there in the peloton."
Froome's participation has drawn criticism after a urine sample he provided showed twice the permitted amount of the asthma drug salbutamol in his system during last year's Vuelta a Espana, which the 32-year-old won.
Salbutamol is not a banned substance, but Froome will be subject to a sanction if no legitimate physiological explanation for the finding is provided.
The race itself was not short on drama as Direct Energie's Thomas Boudat took the stage win, crossing the line ahead of Sacha Modolo after the EF Education First-Drapac prematurely celebrated.