The win marked a "promising" return to form for the two-time road world champion, who rounded EF Education-EasyPost’s Richard Carapaz in the finale, and held off the Ecuadorian to the line.
Metres before the victory was guaranteed, Alaphilippe sat up in his saddle and gestured down towards the floor with his palms. Tranquille, was the message. The Frenchman is back.
"It was a difficult victory to go after, but it feels good because these last few months have been long,” he said post-race. “I stayed patient, I worked hard and now I’m back to winning ways.”
For Alaphilippe, 2022 marked a season fraught with crashes and injuries. His last WorldTour triumph came at Itzulia Basque Country in April, before he was hospitalised at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and withdrew from September's Vuelta a España with a dislocated shoulder.
Victory earlier this year at the 1.Pro-ranked Faun-Ardéche Classic brought hope for the Frenchman, and his win at the Dauphiné - a career third - proved his calibre ahead of next month's Tour de France.
“I surprised myself,” he said. “We set out with the goal to set up a sprint for Ethan Vernon, and if it was too difficult for him, then we had Florian [Sénéchal], or even Andrea Bagioli or me - I know I can do a decent sprint, even if it’s been a little while since I’ve found myself in the situation.”
However, with his team-mates absent in the finale, the Soudal Quick-Step rider had to react quickly. “I had good legs, I saw that everyone was á bloc, and I saw the finish line approaching, so I started my effort at the right moment," he said.
“You can’t dream much bigger than winning a stage of the Dauphiné. I told myself before I came here that if I won a stage, I’d be really happy, and voilá, I’ve done it, on the second day. I can be more relaxed for the rest of the week, but still give my all every day.”
What does the victory mean for the upcoming Tour de France? “It’s always promising,” Alaphilippe smiled.
Stage two brought a spattering of categorised climbs, with a pairing of two third-category ascents, followed by two category fours. Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Dstny) and Kenny Elissonde (Trek-Segafredo) held on as dogged survivors of the early breakaway, but the duo were reeled in with 10km to go, when Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Tobias Bayer launched a counterattack.
The Austrian’s move, though, was short-lived. Led by Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard, the peloton hurtled towards the line, where Alaphilippe proved to be the strongest. Carapaz finished second, Natnael Tesfatsion (Trek-Segafredo) came third, while race leader Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma) trailed the podium in fourth.
Alaphilippe now sits second in the general classification, level on time with yellow jersey-wearer Laporte.