Tom Boonen took defeat at Milan-San Remo on the chin, like a boxer knowing he'd been beaten fair and square in a heavyweight title fight.
The Quick Step team leader rode a near perfect race. He was always well placed on the Cipressa and Poggio, survived the twisting descents and started his sprint at exactly right moment. The only problem was that he was beaten to the line by Oscar Freire (Rabobank).
"If you start the sprint late or get blocked in then you can have regrets but I didn’t do anything wrong. A great Oscar Freire won today," he said.
"Freire went at the same time as me but got one or two bike lengths immediately. I didn’t get the maximum [result] I could, but I've no regrets."
This was Boonen's eighth Milan-San Remo and his best ever result at the Italian Classic. Last year he was dropped on the Cipressa and struggled throughout the season after news broke of his positive out-of-competition tests for cocaine.
He has shown he is back to his best and promised to keep trying to win Milan-San Remo in the years to come.
"To win Milan-San Remo you need a lot experience because you've got to know how to stay cool throughout the race. I'm 29 and I'll try again next year. Cipollini won after 14 years, right? This is my eighth edition, I've still got time. Perhaps winning my last ever San Remo would be the best thing ever but I'll try next year for sure."
Despite still feeling the pain of 300 kilometres in his legs, Boonen has already starting to think about the other Classics, on his home roads and cobbles in Belgium.
"Now it's time for my northern Classics, starting virtually right away, this Wednesday," he said. This race has proved my form is good and I'll be giving everything for both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix."