The 2014 season for Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) started in the worst way possible as he was caught up in a crash at the Tour Down Under's People's Choice Classic, fracturing his tibia.
The three-time Italian champion recovered from the injury to make his Tour de France debut and came close to claiming the stage win atop the Hors Categorie Monte de Saint-Lary Pla d'Adet having been the first to attack from the leading group on the road.
Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) caught the Italian in the final kilometres of the climb and went on to win his second stage of the Tour, while Visconti rolled over the line in second place, 29 seconds later.
While he was disappointed to miss out on the win, Visconti was happy to be the position of challenging for victory considering his January crash which sidelined him for several months.
"I tried hard and, at a certain point I thought I could repeat last year's action from the Galibier but we have to compliment Majka, he had already won a stage, he was wearing the KOM jersey and that always gives you an extra bit of energy," he said, referencing his stage win from last year's Giro d'Italia. "Once I saw him coming from behind, I knew it would be very difficult.
"I'm happy with what I did, especially when I remember that six months ago, I was in bed in hospital with a broken leg, and today I was here, fighting for arguably the toughest stage in this year's Tour.
Behind Visconti, Movistar's GC leader Alejandro Valverde was struggling on the steep ascent to Pla d'Adet but with the help of Ion Izagirre and Jesus Herrada, he recovered and managed to finish ahead of his podium rivals.
"It was a very fast race," Visconti explained. "As expected, Katusha kept the break under control before the first KOM. The break was big and very strong; I always rode at the back, thinking that Alejandro [Valverde] could need my help if they came back from behind, but as I said, there were really expert guys in the break, and at the end I felt strong and gave it a try.
"There were so many sacrifices to reach this race in good condition and I couldn't give up. I felt well, just like last year, and even believed I could make it, but it wasn't to be."