Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) lost some precious seconds to his main rivals at Tirreno-Adriatico on stage 4 but refused to accept defeat, telling Cyclingnews that he believes he still has a chance of overall victory.
The Spaniard lost 15 seconds to Chris Froome (Team Sky) in the final kilometre of the climb to Prati di Tivo after making a lone attack with 2.7km to go and then going with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) when the Italian surged clear two kilometres from the finish.
Team Sky swept up their attack with a controlled effort and then Froome powered away to victory, while Contador did not seem at his best, pushing a slightly heavy gear sat in the saddle, rather than his usual en danseuse, out of the saddle style. His face betrayed that he was hurting and he was passed by Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia), Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard).
"It was a difficult day's racing," Contador told Cyclingnews before the start of stage five. "There was a lot of wind on the final part of the climb, a headwind. We tried to gain time on Froome but it wasn't easy. I'm happy. My numbers were good."
Contador had jumped clear to win the three-second time bonus with six kilometres to go but is 30 seconds behind Kwiatkowski in the overall classification. He is 14 seconds behind Nibali and 24 seconds behind Froome.
Time bonuses of ten, six and four seconds are up for grabs at the finishes in Chieti and in Porto Sant'Elpidio but the final podium of this year's Tirreno-Adriatico will be decided in Tuesday's final 9.2km individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.
It is a flat and fast time trial course along the sea front, with little chance of riders producing big time gaps. However, Contador refuse to throw in the towel.
“I think I've still got a chance of winning," he insisted to Cyclingnews. "The race doesn’t end until Tuesday, until the very end of the time trial."
Team Saxo-Tinkoff directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit also refused to concede defeat just yet.
“We have no regrets. Alberto tried his best and attacked a few times to create the gap but he was reeled in every time. They (Team Sky) are incredibly strong and Froome finished it off," he said.
"It's going to be very difficult now to bridge the gap in the GC. Tomorrow's another hard stage but to get 30 seconds, it has to be a more demanding stage than what tomorrow's stage can offer. But let's see. The race is not over yet."