Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) looked beyond his sixth place at Milano-Torino, and shrugged off any sense of disappointment, explaining he is just happy to be competitive and enjoying his racing after an incredible 2019 season and victory at the Tour de France.
Bernal's life changed forever when he became the first-ever Colombian to win the Tour de France in July. He was celebrated as a national hero when he returned home and only returned to racing in mid-September. While most other Tour de France riders have already ended their season, cracking mentally and physically, Bernal has kept going and done some hard training with the hope of an enjoyable end to his season.
His end-of-season Italian race programme is designed to keep him fit and lay the foundations for an even more successful 2020, when he will try to repeat his Tour victory.
"I just want a good end of season," Bernal said beyond the Superga finish line near Turin.
"I don't want to put on 10 kilos and so have to ride like crazy in December and January to lose it," he said recently to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I’ve been in top form in Colombia, Paris-Nice, Catalunya, Suisse and the Tour. I've been on the limit all year and so I want to just enjoy my final races."
Bernal clocked up some long rides while at home in Colombia in August but has only ridden six one-day races since his return. He was beaten by Giovanni Visconti (Neri Sottoli) at the testing Giro della Toscana but opted not to ride the World Championships in Yorkshire.
His long season of racing has left him with a solid base of form, but he lacks the top-end form to race aggressively and respond to the numerous attacks that Michael Woods (EF Education First) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) launched on the climb to Superga. He was able to gradually close the gap but had little left when Woods surged to victory ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
"I felt really good, but I’m lacking a bit when there are changes of pace. That caused me to suffer a lot and I had to go at my own pace," Bernal admitted.
"I enjoyed the race though; I was up there and it’s nice to end the season in good condition and so set up the next season. I'm also happy to be racing in Piemonte. These races are close to where I lived until two years ago when I raced with the Androni Giocattoli team."
Bernal is expected to target victory at Thursday's Gran Piemonte, with the 10km climb to the Oropa Sanctuary suiting his climbing skills. He is not concerned about resting up before Saturday's Il Lombardia, where he will share leadership with Gianni Moscon.
"I simply wanted to enjoy these races, I'm not thinking about one in particular. When I was at home in Colombia, I didn't focus on preparing for Il Lombardia. I've just trained to enjoy myself all the way to end of what has already been a magical season for me."