Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) was in no mood to talk after losing out on yet another chance of victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, but he tried to look on the bright side, knowing that he still has a shot of victory in the final time trial.
Sagan looked the strongest in the breakaway that he sparked with an attack with two laps of the rolling circuit in Cepagatti remaining. His teammates Daniele Bennati and Oscar Gatto rode their hearts out to ensure the eight-man move stayed away, but Sagan lacked a cool mind and the legs to match Greg Van Avermaet in the sprint after the BMC rider had sat on during the attack.
"What can I do? I can only do my race and he does his. I had a teammate on the front, while he was alone. For sure, I spent more energy for the race, but that's cycling. Hopefully the wheel turns, you know…" Sagan said at the Tinkoff bus after the stage before being mobbed for autographs.
"My team did big work today. I'm happy. We rode for the intermediate sprint and did well, and after that Etixx tried to help us, and we worked on the front a lot. Also Michal Kwiatkowski worked a lot. At the finish, the group was close behind us, Kwiatkowski was in the front and so I had to start to do my sprint. Greg was behind us, so what could I do? Nothing. I just tried to do my best."
Eight seconds down on Van Avermaet
Sagan will start the decisive 10.1km time trial in San Benedetto dello Tronto at 3:42pm local time, with Bob Jungels (Etixx-QuickStep) starting ahead of him and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) behind him.
Van Avermaet leads Stybar by seven seconds, with Sagan at eight seconds and Jungels still a threat, just 21 seconds behind. The fight for overall victory in this year's Tirreno-Adriatico seems set to be between those four.
"Everything is possible tomorrow, I'll try to do my best tomorrow," Sagan promised.
"I'm full of motivation because it's not a normal Tirreno, they cancelled one stage. I'm in the front; I want to do my best. I want to do well for the team. I have to try, I don't care who is in front of me."