A satisfied and relieved Thomas Lövkvist was already looking ahead to the his next Grand Tour challenge at the finish of the Giro d'Italia in Rome on Sunday.
"I'm happy to be at the finish now, it's been a long three weeks but the team had great success so we're all happy," an exhausted Lövkvist told Cyclingnews after securing 25th on general classification at the conclusion of the individual time trial.
Despite losing a huge slice of time on stage 16 it was a successful Grand Tour for Lövkvist. The young Swede claimed the maglia rosa after an impressive third place behind Danilo Di Luca on the uphill stage four finish to San Martino di Castrozza.
"I thought I'd be there; I wasn't sure if Michael [Rogers] lost any time but I thought I'd get it," said Lövkvist of his fourth stage coup.
"I've done a great Giro. I had the jersey and was third on the hard mountaintop finish there and then I had one bad day in Monte Petrano. But I got a bit of experience riding up there on GC."
"When you have the jersey it's a different thing. It would have been nice to win a stage but to ride one day in the jersey is just as good," said Lövkvist, reflecting upon his first experience wearing the leader's jersey in a Grand Tour.
The 2009 Giro demonstrated Lövkvist's continuing development as a stage racer since his debut as the youngest rider at the 2005 Tour de France. Despite a steady improvement in his Grand Tour participations the 25-year-old is taking a wait-and-see approach to his potential as a stage race winner.
"It's coming year-by-year, I'm getting better all the time, it comes slowly. I'm still far away from being up there one day it would be nice but we'll see how I develop."
Last year Lövkvist claimed a 41st place finish in the Tour de France and held the best young rider jersey for five stages. After completing his most recent Grand Tour he will now turn his attention to the 2009 Tour de France where he hopes to be part of yet another strong Columbia-Highroad squad.
"We've got a lot of cards to play, we have the sprints for Cavendish so we'll see" said Lövkvist.
While he was guarded about his own expectations, should he make the Columbia-Highroad squad, it would seem that there are those in his camp who think the course at this year's Tour may suit his abilities.
"The management claim so, there's not so many hilltop finishes and a lot of the time the climbs are far away."