Elia Viviani pushed down on the top of his front tyre with his thumb when he reached the Deceuninck-QuickStep bus, the soft rubber confirming his feeling in the sprint that a slow puncture had hampered his ability to match the speed of his sprint rivals on stage 7 of the Tour de France despite a perfect lead-out from his teammates.
Viviani finished sixth, with Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) taking the win ahead of Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Viviani wanted to spin out the pain and disappointment from his legs on the rollers, but when he realised his luck had deserted him, he abandoned his bike and climbed into the team bus. He needed 10 minutes to dissipate his disappointment before explaining what happened. It was unclear if Viviani was using Specialized tubeless tyres or traditional tubulars. He has used both in recent races.
"I almost slid out on the last corner, I had a slow puncture and my wheel was half flat," he said, channeling his inner Zen to hide his frustration.
"I was just unlucky. You can only accept it when you puncture, it can happen to anyone. It was our turn today. There was nothing we could do."
Viviani's Deceuninck-QuickStep teammates had again given him a perfect lead-out after Kasper Asgreen and Yves Lampaert worked with other sprint teams to control the break during the 230km stage. Michael Morkov and Max Richeze dragged Viviani out of the fight for the wheels in a textbook set up.
It seemed perfect for Viviani, but he lacked speed and was soon passed by five of his biggest rivals.
"We'd planned to hit the front after the last turn. We did it a little later, but it worked out perfectly because we went later in what was a hard, fast sprint after 200km of riding," Viviani explained, the superb lead-out only leaving him more frustrated.
"When I got out of the saddle everyone else was just faster than me, and I couldn't do anything about it. I did what I could…. I'm sorry for the guys because they did a great job. I can only congratulate Groenewegen, because he produced a great sprint."
Deceuninck-QuickStep has multiple objectives in this year's Tour de France and work for Julian Alaphilippe on Saturday's stage to St-Etienne as he tries to take back the yellow jersey with an aggressive ride in the final hills and technical finish. Viviani will have to work too and look forward to the next sprint opportunity after a hilly weekend.
"Now I've got to suffer on Saturday and Sunday and then hopefully there's a chance for me on Monday in Albi," he said, crossing his fingers for better luck.