Alaphilippe retains Dauphiné white jersey
On the first uphill finish of the race, the Frenchman came with the other GC contenders and kept his 5th place in the overall.
Stage 2 of the Criterium du Dauphiné was the second at this edition earmarked by the yellow jersey favourites, as it included four categorized climb, one of which was featuring right at the finish. Long before that, five riders went clear on Col de Durbize, taking in their hands a 5:30 advantage and fighting for the KOM points: Jack Bauer (Cannondale), Lilian Calméjane (Direct Energie), Alexis Gougeard (AG2R), Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (Dimension Data).
Once Etixx – Quick-Step hit the front of the peloton inside the last 30 kilometers, the stage came to life, as Tony Martin, Niki Terpstra and Stijn Vandenbergh chewed into the escapees' advantage, bringing it down to just 1:30 with 17 kilometers to go, on the penultimate ascent of the day. In the meantime, the leading quintet began to disintegrate following the attack of Gougeard, which saw only Huzarski take his wheel. On the descent, BMC and Tinkoff took command of the pack and reabsorbed all of the day's escapees, so the race witnessed a new start.
Attacks started to fire from the bunch on the final climb, with the likes of Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal), Fabrice Jeandesboz (Direct Energie), Mikel Landa (Team Sky) and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) trying to put pressure on overall leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and forge a stage win. Each time, the peloton came back, and on the tricky uphill drag to Chalmazal-Jeansagnière, Jesus Herrada (Movistar) outsprinted the other riders and landed the victory, beating Gallopin and Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) in the process.
Both Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe came with what was left of the bunch, two seconds behind the winner, and will rest for another day in the top 5 of the French race. Still, despite finishing in the same time as the other contenders, it wasn't all roses for the Etixx – Quick-Step duo, as Julian explained: "There was a crash of Romain Bardet with around one kilometer to go and both of us got caught behind, so had to brake and then chase hard to return to the front. That was a really big effort, which meant we couldn't contest the sprint, but we are keen to try again this week. What matters is that we showed we are a good and strong team, commited to take the responsibility in the peloton and go after the break so we can have a shot at victory."
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele