Just half a wheel was all that separated Michael Albasini (Orica GreenEdge) from stage 14 winner, Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) in Lyon. The Swiss had led the sprint to the line only to be overtaken by Trentin at the very last moment by the narrowest of margins.
"For the moment, there is a lot of frustration," admitted Albasini. "Maybe after dinner, I can feel a little proud of my performance today, but when you get so close to a win at the Tour de France, the first few moments after will be a lot of frustration."
Albasini, already with two wins to his name this season including one at Paris-Nice, was part of the 18-man breakaway which formed during the opening hour of the stage. Orica GreenEdge sports director Matt White explained that Albasini was just one of a number of options that the squad had to make the escape, which also included Cam Meyer, Simon Clarke and stage 3 winner Simon Gerrans.
"Albasini is very, very fast," White said. "We have a lot of faith in him. He's won many times from a group of that size in the technical sort of final we had today. He was the perfect guy to have in the breakaway."
The 32-year-old launched the first attack along with Garmin Sharp's David Millar with 25km to go, but the potentially dangerous move was quickly shut down by Jens Voigt (RadioShack Leopard). Julien Simon (Sojasun) attacked on the penultimate climb, the Côte de la Duchère with around 15km left to race. The Frenchman gained 20 seconds on his rivals before being brought back to the group with one kilometre to go.
"It wasn't up to me to chase him," said Albasini. "I was focused on controlling the group behind. I couldn't take responsibility to chase him down, too. He was riding really strong. It was close, but all our attacks brought him back."
Winner of stage 2 Jan Bakelants (RadioShack Leopard) launched the next attack opening up the sprint before Albasini surged passed him and looked destined for the win. It wasn't to be.
"There was a lot of headwind in the finish straight," said Albasini. "I went too early. The timing would have been right without the wind. It was too soon with it."