Chris Froome's hopes of bouncing back at the Giro d'Italia lasted just 24 hours with his success atop Monte Zoncolan eclipsed by a difficult stage 15 in the Dolomites that saw him lose 1:32 to an ever-more-dominant Simon Yates.
If the Zoncolan was a steep ladder back up the overall classification, the road to Sappada was the snake that saw Froome slip to seventh, 4:52 down on his fellow Briton. He is two and half minutes from a place on the podium with the time trial in his favour, but with the risk of losing more time on the final mountain finishes.
Froome was subdued as he continued his ritual of spending time on the Team Sky bus and then warming down on the rollers before speaking about his day in the saddle. Spinning his legs and stretching helped remove the lactic acid but it could not remove his disappointment.
"It was a very difficult day, but that's racing. When you push hard on one day you can pay a lot the day after. I went deep to win on the stage on the Zoncolan, so I simply didn't have the legs today," he said.
Froome and Team Sky came to the Giro d'Italia to target a Gran Tour slam after his Tour de France and Vuelta a España victories. That dream is perhaps now over for good, with his salbutamol case likely to be his next big battle. However, Froome insisted he has no regrets about targeting the corsa rosa.
"I knew the Giro was hard, but its an incredible experience to be here," he said.
An extra in the Yates-Dumoulin fight for every second
Froome, like Fabio Aru, Rohan Dennis and others, has almost become a spectator and an extra in the battle for overall victory at the Giro d'Italia that is likely to end with the tussle for every second between Simon Yates and Tom Dumoulin. Froome backed his fellow Briton, convinced that the Mitchelton-Scott leader can continue his dominant display all the way through Tuesday’s time and the final mountain stages in the Italian Alps.
"He's had a very impressive race so far. I think it's going to be difficult for someone to take the jersey off his back now. He's shown he's always up there. I think he's the favourite now," Froome said of Yates.
Froome is hoping that after his fall from grace 'dalle stelle alle stalle - from the stars to the stables', as they say in Italy, he can make sense of his final week at the Giro d'Italia, starting with Tuesday's time trial.
"The time trial will be very important for the Giro. Everyone is expected Tom Dumoulin to do something because he's world time trial champion but we'll see what we can do on the course too," Froome said.
"The rest day will be useful to sleep a bit and recover. We'll try to find the energy for the final part of the Giro."