In a field of stacked time trial specialists, Felline was meant to be a relative afterthought, but on a day dominated by on-and-off showers it was the 27-year-old Italian who had the last laugh, winning, pulling on the race's first leader's jersey and leaving Demol well and truly vindicated in his prediction.
"This is the first time in my career where I've finished a race and done everything perfectly," Felline told Cyclingnews after he wrapped up his race leader's press conference.
"I've had a really good campaign in the spring, but I've not had the results to match. As a rider, the performances are important but victory brings the real satisfaction. Until today I've missed that feeling."
Felline has indeed been a consistent performer throughout the Spring Classics, and he won the Trofeo Laigueglia back in February. However, Felline is more associated with sprinting, the Classics and being a devoted teammate. Prologues weren't meant to be his thing.
"Yesterday I was telling my teammates that I had missed the feeling of winning and now I have it," he said. "That's cycling, but it's also true that last night I went to bed and I said maybe I can turn a page tomorrow and the view will be different. All of a sudden I have a victory in the pocket. I knew that it was important to give the maximum, and I knew that if I did that then I could be happy. If riders are stronger than me, that's not a problem, but I just wanted to give it everything that I had. When I checked the profile of the race I realised that there were a number of stages for riders like me. But now I first need to defend the jersey."
At one stage it looked as though Felline's time would be toppled. The roads over the 4.8km course looked to be drying up as the showers eased, but then with an hour to go the clouds returned, bringing with them another fresh but light fall.
"It wasn't easy because there were a lot of corners that were technical but everyone had the same conditions," Felline told Cyclingnews.
"We all had the same. That gives the victory more value. Nobody had dry roads. When I saw the route I knew it was for the specialists, but I also thought that it could be for a rider like me."
A dedication to Michele
Felline, like Vincenzo Nibali at the Tour of Croatia and Alejandro Valverde at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, dedicated his win to the late Michele Scarponi and his bereaved family. The pair never raced as teammates, but Felline, like so many riders and staff within cycling, knew that Scarponi's popularity was spread across the sport.
"When I started in Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, my hope was that I could do a result for him. Losing him was tough because he was my friend and a friend to cycling. This victory is for his family and for him. He's not with us, it's a strange feeling and it's really difficult to explain the situation, but everyone who does something in races like today, they think of Michele."
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