Canadian Svein Tuft came just a hair's breadth from taking his first world title at the UCI road world championships in Florence on Sunday. He and his Orica-GreenEdge teammates were only 0.81 seconds shy of the victory after a grueling 57.2km team time trial, losing out to the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team.
Tuft was disappointed with the result, but at the same time happy for his team, which moved up a step on the podium compared with last year.
"It's one of those things where we rode with everything we had," Tuft told Cyclingnews. "It's disappointing to lose by 0.8 seconds but we did everything we could. What's strange is that, in [Eneco Tour] we beat them by 0.8 [last year], and in the Tour we beat them by 0.8s and they beat us today. We've had a few close calls with them.
"We've really worked hard for this race. It's disappointing, but at the same time we were committed to the effort and worked well together. We had a good day for what we had."
Orica went into the first check 12 seconds down on Omega Pharma, by the next check at kilometer 24.1 they had lost another two seconds, but over the course of the subsequent 18.2km they overturned that deficit and added another two seconds, heading into the final 15km with the lead.
"It's such a long day, with the nature of the course - it's flat and supposedly fast, but it was a block headwind or crosswind the majority of the time. We went out at a decent pace, but then we really hung on. I think that's a good strategy. If you go too hard over the climb [near the start] you can put guys over their limit and not get them back. We had a good strategy and the guys really stuck to it."
It's been a banner year for the 36-year-old, who is only in his fourth season at the WorldTour level, having spent 2009-2010 with Garmin and joining Orica after a year at the Pro Continental level with Spidertech. He's only been getting better, this year winning the time trial in Tour de San Luis, and completing the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. He experienced his first Grand Tour stage podium when his team beat Omega Pharma in the team time trial.
"It's been a great year, it would have been nice to cap it off with a world title, but that's life."
He has been selected for Canada's Worlds squad, but already declined the entry in the road race, and is now questioning taking part in the individual time trial on Wednesday.
"I put so much energy into this. I've only been training specifically for the TTT. It's such a different effort - it's really hard to go from these two minute or 1.5-minute full gas efforts and recovery to a long steady hour, or hour-ten minute steady state effort. It's a totally different type of training. We'll see. I'm still undecided."
Canada will start the road race with only two riders, despite qualifying to field three, but Tuft is standing firm on his decision to skip the race.
"I know where I'm at this point in the year. I put all of my energy into this day, and it's been a long season. The nature of the course on Sunday ... it's going to be difficult."
At age 36, most riders are starting to consider the end of their career, but Tuft, having only made it to this level in the past five years, is ready to keep going with a fresh two-year contract with Orica-GreenEdge.
"I still feel quite new to the sport, as long as you're still learning and progressing, you can't go wrong. As long as you keep having good years you can't stop."