Peter Sagan (Cannondale) struggled to find a smile as he stood on the Strade Bianche podium next to Michal Kwiatkowski, holding the flowers of the bridesmaid rather those of the race winner.
Sagan is arguably the most complete one-day rider in professional cycling at the moment but he missed out on a major victory yet again, just as he did in Milan-San Remo when he beaten in the sprint by Gerald Ciolek and at the Tour of Flanders when he was out powered by Fabian Cancellara.
Sagan can sprint almost as well as a pure sprinter, he appears to have the talent and tactical intelligence to win the cobbled classics and the climbing ability and consistency to dominate the points competition at the Tour de France. However his multitude of abilities often means he struggles against riders who are on great form and have a unique talent.
Kwiatkowski is currently in the form of his life and will be a sure contender for victory at Tirreno-Adriatico. The strength of his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team forced an isolated Sagan to go on the attack earlier than was ideal for his current level of form. Kwiatkowski then used his superior climbing to drop Sagan on the final climb into the centre of Siena.
"I'm not happy because I didn’t win. He was stronger this time, there was nothing I could do," Sagan said as he reflected on the race, admitting he did not have a mechanical problem.
"I had a puncture…. My legs went flat," he said. "I tried to do my race but I didn’t feel great and saw that he was pedaling a lot better than I was. That's racing, sometimes you feel great, sometimes you don’t feel great. It was a very hard race and the strong wind made it even harder. I hope that my form is going peak later in the spring."
Sagan admitted that being isolated in the front group of 24 riders forced him to go on the attack. Last year Cannondale dominated the race, with Moreno Moser attacking alone, allowing Sagan to play a tactical game with his rivals. This year Moser is far from his best. He finished 51st, 9:15 behind Kwiatkowski.
"I attacked because other riders had started to attack and counter attack. I was on my own and people were racing against me and against Cancellara. I decided to attack to isolate my rivals and put them on the back foot," Sagan explained.
"If I'd had a teammate I think I'd have waited instead of attacking. But that was the situation we were in."
Sagan tried to look on the bright side of second place, hoping that riding Tirreno-Adriatico will give him the form he needs to be competitive in the rapidly approaching Classics.
"I hope to improve and be near 100 per cent for Milan-San Remo and then the other Classics. Tirreno will give me a good block of racing. My form was perhaps a little better last year but I'm getting better and better all the time."