Fabian Cancellara stopped a few metres after the finish line of Strade Bianche, grabbed a drink from his soigneur and then let his head drop as he tried to absorb the disappointment of finishing fourth.
He is the only rider to have won Strade Bianche twice and was targeting a third victory so that the race organisers would name a section of dirt road in his honour. Instead Moreno Moser entered the record books as the first Italian rider to win the race and Cannondale Pro Cycling Team stole the headlines by dominating the race and finishing first and second.
Cancellara tried to jump across to Moser in the final 20km of the racing but was isolated in the front group and closely shadowed by Peter Sagan. The Slovakian rider then jumped away to take second place behind his teammate, rubbing salt into Cancellara's open wounds.
His only consolation was that the dirt roads and steep hills of the Strade Bianche had confirmed that he is on track to be at his best yet again this spring.
"The best team won today, there's no doubt about that," he conceded sportingly when speaking to Cyclingnews.
"Cannondale raced well together and took advantage of every moment. I tried to make a selection several times but Sagan and Valverde just isolated me. It was a hard, fast race, with the wind making it harder.
"To win you needed more than just good legs. I had those. But as I imagined, the race was a bit of a lottery because you can attack at almost any point in the finale, on any climb or corner."
Cancellara will not ride Sunday's Roma Maxim race. Instead he will rest up for Tirreno-Adriatico, hoping the week-long Italian stage race will add the final touches to his form for the Classics.
"I'm satisfied with my performance because this was a hard race, harder than last year when I won. It was a good test of my condition and I'm happy with where I am now.
"I don't have the solution to how beat Sagan at the moment but I'm getting close to where I want to be. There's still time to improve and there's still some margin for improvement. We'll see what happens in a few weeks time."
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