Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) stopped just a few metres after the finish at the top of the climb to Terminillo to pull on an extra rainbow jersey. The cold mist had collected on his face, emphasising the pain he was feeling after a second hard day of racing in the Giro d'Italia.
The World Champion won the stage on the dirt roads to Montalcino on Saturday and finished ninth, in the same time as race leader Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), at the summit of the Terminillo.
Evans told Cyclingnews that that the first mountain stage of the 2010 race had caused little change in the overall standings because of the intensity of the racing during the weekend and the first week of the Giro.
"I think everyone was a little bit tired today after the huge effort we all made yesterday on the dirt roads," Evans said.
"In the finale like that it's one-on-one, nobody really has any teammates and so that makes for defensive racing.
"It's also been a pretty crazy first week. The route was pretty tough, especially with the stages in Holland, which were more of a lottery than about the strength of rider's legs. The speed was really high in the first two hours of the stage yesterday and even today it was lined-out as they went for the climber's points. I haven't seen that for a while."
The Terminillo confirmed that Carlos Sastre (Cervélo Test Team) is no longer an overall contender, but all the pre-race favourites now fill the top-ten. Evans is 1:12 behind Vinokourov, but leads Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo) by 21 seconds and Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) by 39 seconds. Other possible rivals such as Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone) and Michele Scarponi (Androni Giocattoli) are respectively 1:35 and 1:47 behind Evans.
"This is the first real mountain finish of the Giro and so it's an early indicator of what's to come," said Evans.
"A group formed at the front in the second half of the climb and that seems to be the solid guys who will fifth it out for victory. There's still a long way to go yet though."
BMC lost John Murphy during the stage. He finished last on the dirt roads to Montalcino and retired mid-stage on Sunday. Evans now has only six teammates to help him for the rest of the Giro d'Italia. The absence of support in key moments of the race could prove to be a factor in the Giro but Evans wisely preferred to encourage the efforts of his team so far.
"That's a pity," he said when hearing about Murphy from Cyclingnews. "We had bad luck before the race with Morabito getting bronchitis and all the other rubbish. We've been a bit unlucky. However I'm really proud of the guys we've got here though. They're really putting in everything they've got."
Fortunately for Evans, both he and his teammates can take it easy as the sprinters teams' take over for the next two stages to Cava De' Tirreni near Naples and Bitonto in the south of Italy. The Giro will be decided in the mountains of the final week of the race.