FDJ’s Arnaud Démare won the 171km Saint-Chamond to Arlanc bunch sprint ahead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) as the general classification favourites held their fire for another day.
It was another major win for 2016 Milan-San Remo champion Démare, and his sixth of the 2017 season.
“I knew it would be a hard day and a bunch sprint finish wasn't a sure thing,” Démare said. “Overall, it was a demanding stage but we were well focused at the end.
“I knew it could suit me and I'm happy to see the hard work paying off. Everyone was tired at the end. In circumstances like this, it's psychologically difficult to go and fight but I was saying to myself that it was hard for everyone.
“It's a big satisfaction to win at the Dauphiné. It's a preparation race for the Tour de France so it's a good sign today. It works well for our group. In a difficult day, my team-mates have reassured me. If we have a chance to get a second stage win this week, we won't give it a miss.”
— CyclingCentral (@CyclingCentral) June 5, 2017
The victory came after a four-man break containing Koen Bouwman (LottoNL-Jumbo), Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Drapac), Alexei Lutsenko (Astana) and Romain Combaud (Delko Marseille Provence KTM) featured in the early proceedings.
The break lost its cohesion at the 30km to go mark with Lutsenko striking out on his own only to see his determination denied with just 3km left to race.
The general classification remained unchanged with De Gendt continuing to lead Axel Domont (AG2R) and Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates).
“It's always nice to see the team working so hard and sitting behind seven guys who are defending the leadership,” De Gendt said. It's a special feeling.
“The team was strong so I wasn't worried when Lutsenko attacked. I don't know why Astana rode so fast before. I was confident that some teams would come and help for a sprint finish.
“We just made sure that his advantage was no more than 1:45. There was no stress at all. I'm also confident for tomorrow.”
The third stage is another flat one favouring the sprinters and taking the peloton 184km from Le Chambon-sur-Lignon to Tullins.