All eyes were on Geraint Thomas for the victory at RideLondon Classic as the solo breakaway rider grit his teeth and pushed himself toward the finish line on The Mall. That win wasn't meant to be, denied by the sprinters' charge to the line, that caught the Team Sky rider and effectively set up Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep) for the glory.
"It was tough, I could have done with somebody to give me a turn and a breather," Thomas said at the finish line. "Everything started to hurt towards the end - my back, my legs. Unfortunately I was caught with five kilometres to go. I knew I was always going to be up against it with a lot of strong teams behind me."
Thomas jumped away from the field led by his teammates over Ranmore Common mid-race. Behind him, Team Sky continued playing aggressively as both Chris Froome and Ian Stannard tried to launch themselves forward, which shattered the peloton behind them.
Froome ended up dropped back, but Stannard continued on and bridged up to Thomas with Pat Bevin (Cannondale-Drapac) in tow. And the three pushed on to bridge the gap to four original breakaway riders: Jempy Drucker (BMC), Jens Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen), Matt Holmes (Madison Genesis) and Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural).
"We wanted to race hard, so when me and Stannard went across to the group, it was all good," Thomas said.
The two groups connected with 65km to go but Team Sky continued their aggressive tactics when Thomas again launched himself from the breakaway over Box Hill and into a solo breakaway with 50km to go.
"Then on at Box Hill, I wanted to test everyone and maybe get rid of a few people but I ended up on my own. It was like 'Sugar!' I'd bought my ticket then and I just had to bite the bullet and go," he said.
It was clear the sprinters' teams were still on the hunt for the day's win and the field closed in on the chase group. Stannard put in one last effort to try and bridge to Thomas, but he too was reeled back into the main group.
Thomas' gap dropped drastically and he was gutted when the field caught him in the finale. He admitted he had gone deep and was in pain after the finish. He finished 78th in the peloton.
"That's the pro peloton for you," he said. "When they ride hard and a couple of sprinters' teams commit, you've got be super strong to hold them off. If I'd maybe stayed with the group longer and gone with 25km to go instead of 50km, I might have had more of chance. But it's great to race here in Britain."