Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) shook hands with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and tried to smile on the Strade Bianche podium but the Danish rider was fighting back the disappointment of finishing second yet again in a major race and struggling to understand what else he could have done to beat Alaphilippe.
"I tried everything. I don’t really know what I should have done differently," he told Cyclingnews.
"I tried to surprise Alaphilippe, to get rid of [Wout] van Aert, I tried to attack with six hundred metres to go. I gave it everything and he was still there. Then after the final climb to the city, he passed me and, yeah, it was difficult to get passed again. He has the sprint, he’s simply more explosive than I am."
Perhaps after a glass of good red wine and a night to recover from his efforts, Fuglsang will see his performance in its true light.
He had the courage to launch the attack that created the winning selection on the steepest point of the ninth of the 11 dirt road sectors. He then went wheel to wheel with Alaphilippe all the way to Siena, perhaps doing more of the work to ensure the two stayed away, as the Frenchman played a tactical game, using the presence of his Deceuninck-QuickStep teammates behind.
"I knew I had to try to force something, so I attacked and only Alaphilippe and Van Aert were able to follow," Fuglsang explained.
"It would’ve been in my favour if they chased us a bit more, because Alaphilippe was not always pulling and was able to save some energy for the finale."
Fuglsang won the 2017 Critérium du Dauphiné and has 18 victories on his palmarès. He also has a string of second places, including the 2018 Tour de Suisse and the 2016 Rio Olympic road race.
His Grand Tour results include five second places on stages and there's a sense he is a talented, classy rider but unable to convert his opportunities into victories due to the lack of a good sprint finish.
"I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad," Fuglsang said.
"I’m super happy with my performance and my feelings, and that I was there in the finale. But of course, it’s a little bit disappointing, a little bittersweet with second place, another second place for my collection. Surely one day the wins will come…"
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