Chris Froome crossed the finish in central Rome lined across the road with his teammates as they celebrated his and Team Sky's first ever Giro d'Italia victory. Yet soon after, after raising the winner's Trofeo Infinito trophy and listening to the British national anthem ring out across the warm evening, Froome's thoughts were already turning to the future and even to the Tour de France.
Froome's ongoing salbutamol case means that he does not know if he will be able to line up in the Vendee on July 7 to target a fifth yellow jersey. He does not know if he will keep his victory at the Vuelta a España after his salbutamol Adverse Analytical Finding, or even if this Giro d'Italia victory will remain long on his palmares or be cut just like Alberto Contador lost a similar victory in 2011 after testing positive at the 2010 Tour de France.
Froome won the Giro d'Italia with an incredible attack on the Colle delle Finestre, holding off his rivals to win in Bardonecchia and take the maglia rosa. He seems to be trying to pedal away from his past and salbutamol case with similar focus and aggression. He is determined to overcome any problem and go on to target a Giro d'Italia - Tour de France double.
"I think it's part of my character, I've always been good at blocking things out. I stay very focused on what I need to achieve, I know what I want to achieve. Once I set my mind to something, I like to get it done," he explained, with a straight face replacing his smile whenever questions are asked about his problems away from racing.
"Obviously the next challenge for me has to be the Tour de France. Tonight we've got to enjoy this and celebrate what's been an amazing victory and few weeks but I'll be keeping things tidy and thinking about recovery.
"There's one week extra this year between Giro and Tour and that was a big part of me coming here. I really do think it's possible to win the Giro and win a fifth Tour de France title. That's my next objective. We've seen riders in past struggle, especially in the third week. That's the challenge for me, get in the right shape for the start of Tour de France and hopefully build into the race and not run out of legs in the third week."
Froome insisted he had every right to ride this Giro d'Italia despite his racing subjudice due to his salbutamol case. However, he admitted that a week ago, as he struggled with injury and had lost time, he did not think he would win.
"I've addressed that already, I had every right to be here, as I've said before I know I've done nothing wrong," he said, repeating his mantra that seems to have learnt by heart for when he is questioned about it.
"A week ago I wouldn't have believed it if you said I'd be here in pink; that was a dream, a hope and something I kept pushing for. But if you realistically asked, I'd have said: listen, I'm three minutes back, it's unlikely. It's been done before – making up that time – but unlikely."
"For that reason, the last 48 hours have been incredible with the finish at Bardonecchia after the Finestre. The race turned around for me and I went from racing for the stage, to moving up one or two places to having the maglia rosa. That's an incredible feeling. It's amazing to race like that. It felt so raw, for me it's what bike racing is about."
Froome admits that this Giro d'Italia victory was the hardest of his six Grand Tour victories. That's why he put off targeting the Corsa Rosa until now. He somehow managed to enjoy both joy and pain across the three weeks of intense racing.
"I think it goes back to the reason why I never came to the Giro before to target the GC," Frome explained.
"It's the toughest race for me to target, especially coming before the Tour de France. It's a Grand Tour of Classics, anything can happen on a given day. It's the biggest challenge of my career, and so to be here in maglia rosa is an amazing feeling. To have done triple, to have won the Tour, Vuelta and now the Giro, there's no greater reward for a pro cyclist. I'm lost for words not yet sunk in that I've achieved."