Alberto Contador (Astana) was clearly frustrated to see victory at Flèche Wallonne snatched from his grasp within sight of the finish line. Yet his third place on the Mur de Huy proved he is far more than a stage race rider and confirmed him as a favourite for Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Contador's lack of experience on the steep slopes of the Mur cost him dearly. He accelerated too early and became the marker for Cadel Evans to set up his own, better-timed surge to victory. Contador was also passed by Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) before the line but third place surely indicates he has the potential to one day win Flèche Wallonne.
"It was frustrating to get so close but it was still a pretty good result," Contador said.
"I'm not a Classics specialist, because my best quality is my recovery, but despite that I'm happy with what I achieved today. After the circumstances of the journey to come here it's not bad, but it's also true that when you're so close to victory it's not nice to be third.
"The whole team rode for me and did a great job, it was just a pity not to win, but I've never been third in a Classic of this level and so I'm happy. We will see what happens on Sunday."
Contador's third place has made him a favourite for Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège but he played down his chances, perhaps in a tactical move so that his Astana team would not have to take control of the race.
"I'm happy with what I achieved. Now I'm thinking about Liège on Sunday, but I honestly don't know what will happen," he said.
"Now I'll try to recover and I would obviously like do well, but I know it's a very different race. In Flèche we went through the finish several times but it's not like that in Liège. I do not know how things will go there. Of course if I can win it would almost be like winning a major Tour."