The end result, however, was the same as most recent Tours - domination from Team Sky.
Team Sky took control of the Tour de France in the high Alps with Geraint Thomas taking the yellow jersey of race leadership for the second time in his career, following a solo win at the Alpine ski station of La Rosière.
Froome crossed third, just behind Dumoulin, who moved up to third overall, 1:44 behind. Though the sight of Sky massed on the front of the peloton most of the day was not one to excite fans, the way in which he attacked with yellow on the line was. "Froomey's won six Grand Tours". For me, it's an unknown.
"We're still here to try and win the race, whatever way that is". For me now, whatever happens, it's been a successful Tour, it's been an wonderful feeling to win the stage and take the jersey, I'm super happy with that.
The 158.5 km stage from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornard featured three category one climbs, including two in the final 30 km.
"It depends on the situation and what is going on in the race. To get a victory at the Tour de France was a dream for me", Alaphillipe said.
The top five in the overall classification is rounded out by 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali in fourth, 2:14 behind Thomas, and Primoz Roglic in fifth, 2:23 back.
The differences between the main challengers were essentially made in the team time trial in the second stage.
By catching Dumoulin, Thomas had already done enough for yellow but wanted more as Nieve slid into view, kicking again to pass Nieve inside the final 400 metres and take the stage win.
"We were expecting attacks", Thomas said.
"For sure I'm not going to sit up and lose time, but I think we're in a great position".
But Thomas and Sky have played that down.
Chris Froome believes the mountains will reveal the true Tour de France contenders as he looks forward to the first of three gruelling stages in the Alps.
Thomas won the Critérium du Dauphiné heading into the Tour while Froome recovered from winning the Giro d'Italia. "I went really deep today", he told NBC Sports.
The Welshman attacked from the group of favourites with 9 kilometres left of the 17.6-kilometre ascent at an average gradient of 5.8 per cent to La Rosiere, and caught Dumoulin, who had attacked earlier.
Sprinting standout Mark Cavendish, meanwhile, finished far behind and missed the time limit, ending his Tour. While Valverde quickly dropped back, Dumoulin kept up his pace and was only surpassed by Thomas.