The Frenchman had not raced since Liège-Bastogne-Liège in late April and a phenomenal spring campaign that included wins in Flèche Wallonne, Strade Bianche, and Milan-San Remo. However, he was on the attack on home soil as he and his team looked to split the race on the opening stage between Aurillac and Jussac.
Deceuninck lifted the pace on the final climb of the day with Zdenek Stybar putting in a ferocious turn of speed on the lower slopes of the Cote de Roquenatou. On his wheel was Alaphilippe, who took over once the former cyclo-cross rider emptied the tank. The Frenchman's following assault strung out the remnants of the peloton, with Team Ineos' Chris Froome and Michal Kwiatkowski among the first to make contact.
Although the pace eventually slowed, the accelerations were enough to see off the pure sprinters such as Sam Bennett and Andre Greipel, both of whom were distanced and unable to regain contact before the finish. In the final Alaphilippe brought Philippe Gilbert to the front with another impressive turn of speed, but the Paris-Roubaix winner was forced to settle for second place behind Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data).
Alaphilippe admitted that the fight for the yellow jersey was not his focus this week but he added that he and his team would race from the front throughout the eight-day event. It's been almost a month since the Belgian outfit won a WorldTour race, which is quite something for a squad that dominated from January to mid-May in such dramatic fashion.
"We'll try and do the best result as possible. Today is a good stage for our team and we have some cards to play," he told Cyclingnews and ITV at the start in Aurillac.
"Now it depends on the legs because it's been a while since we've done racing. Today isn't going to be easy and we'll try and do a good result. It's difficult to know where you are after a long time without racing but I'll take it day after day without any pressure."
"The GC, I don't think so. I'll take it day by day but the final weekend is really difficult and there's that long time trial on stage 4, which isn't my speciality. I just want to enjoy my week here and try to do well."
Alaphilippe added that after re-signing with Patrick Lefevere's team his full focus was on the rest of the campaign. There had been links between Alaphilippe and Total for several months but the speculation was put to bed when it was announced on June 1 that the Frenchman had signed a contract extension.
"It's good news for me and for the team. I'm very happy to continue with Deceuninck-QuickStep. I feel relaxed and really motivated for the Dauphine, for the Tour and to finish the season in a good way. I had some opportunities to sign with other projects but now I've signed and I'm really happy."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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