Chris Froome and Alberto Contador smiled on the final podium at Tirreno-Adriatico as they posed for photographs with overall winner Vincenzo Nibali, but both were disappointed not to win the testing week-long stage race.
Froome beat Nibali, Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez at the Tour of Oman and seemed on track to win Tirreno-Adriatico until a series of marginal errors and Nibali's aggressive attack on the descent to Porto Sant'Elpidio turned the race upside down.
"It's not that things didn't go well, I'm happy with what I've done. I'm happy with the work the team did for me. The goal was always to win, but I'm still content," Froome said.
The Kenyan-born Briton was optimistic for the rest of the season. He will target the Tour de France and so clash with Contador in July, while Bradley Wiggins will take on Nibali at the Giro d'Italia in May.
"I came off a good winter, I didn't have any sickness or problems. I wouldn't say I'm on my best form, but I'm on track for July," said Froome.
"Any results here are just a bonus for me and a good indication that I'm heading in the right way."
Contador considers race a test for the Tour
Contador won the red points jersey, but it was of little consolation to the Spaniard who is used to winning. However, he was clearly not at his best on the climbs and finished a surprising 17th in the final time trial, 30 seconds slower than Tony Martin over the 9.2km. Even Nibali was faster by four seconds, with Froome beating him by a significant 16 seconds.
"Today was a very hard day. When I got up this morning my whole body was hurting, even my knees," Contador told Cyclingnews.
"Yesterday I made a mistake with my gears for the climb. That made it too hard for me on the climb, and I couldn't climb well. The rain made for a hard race, but I'm happy with how the team performed. There's a good atmosphere."
Contador revealed he had studied Team Sky race strategy on the mountain finish at Prati di Tivo. He has been watching and analyzing his rivals throughout race.
"The race was useful for several reasons and I learnt quite a few things: the way several teams work, especially Team Sky, which will be useful later in the season at the Tour which is my big goal of the season, when I want to be at my very best and win. This race was a good test and good lesson for July."
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