While Rui Costa stood emotionally on the podium, with the rainbow jersey on his shoulders, Vincenzo Nibali could only limp slowly to anti-doping control behind the podium area, in pain after his crash and hugely disappointed to finish fourth and out of the medals at the world championships.
The Italian team worked incredibly hard to set up Nibali in the finale. He came back from a high speed crash, rode aggressively and was able to go clear with Joaquim Rodriguez on the final time up the climb to Fiesole, but then lost contact with the Spaniard. If the two had stayed together they would perhaps have made it to the finish and sprinted for victory. Instead Rodriguez was caught and beaten by Rui Costa and Nibali was beaten by Alejandro Valverde in the sprint for third.
"After I crashed earlier, I was a bit scared. I could feel that my bike was slipping and I was scared of crashing again. I didn’t want to take any risks and so couldn't hold Rodriguez's wheel," Nibali revealed to Cyclingnews and Italian magazine Cycling Pro.
"I made a huge effort to get back on after crashing. My legs were hurting, I managed to get back because my form is good but I couldn't do any better than I did."
No help from Costa and Valverde
Nibali was seen waving to Valverde and Costa to help him chase after Rodriguez in the final kilometres before the finish. Valverde naturally defended Rodriguez's lead but Costa refused to come through until he made his own move to catch and then beat the Spaniard.
"I knew Valverde wouldn't help out but Costa only came past me briefly to do a bit and then to attack," Nibali lamented.
"I thought Valverde would go after him but he didn’t. I tried to do a good sprint but Valverde even changed direction and pushed me way over to the right."
Front wheel slipped out
Nibali crashed at speed with teammate Luca Paolini with just over two laps to race. He was forced to chase alone and took a generous tow in the slipstream of the Italian team car to get back on.
He revealed that his front wheel had slipped out in the wet conditions, despite the road being newly surfaced for the world championships.
"I took the same line but my front wheel blocked and I slipped out," Nibali said, showing a nasty abrasion that left a hole in his shorts.
"When I crashed I thought I'd blown it because I was feeling good but then I was in pain. The pain eased as I pedalled and I tried to do a great race but there was nothing else I could do," he said.