Moreno Moser led Cannondale's fight for a stage victory at the Giro d'Italia on the long road to Pinerolo but he again came up short, beaten by the Etixx-QuickStep duo of Matteo Trentin and Gianluca Brambilla.
Moser looked strong on the late climbs that split the 24-rider break of the day and even tried to drop Brambilla on the final San Maurizio ramp on cobbled streets that topped out with just two kilometres to go. He was thinking about the sprint with Brambilla when Trentin arrived from behind and attacked in sight of the line.
"E' una grande beffa (a sick joke)," Moser said just seconds after crossing the line, still stunned at how victory had slipped his grasp.
"There's not much I can say. I was watching Brambilla and then I saw Trentin flash by at 20 metres to go, and there was nothing I could do.
"This was a huge chance for me, perhaps one of the biggest in my life to win a stage at the Giro d'Italia. I didn't know that Trentin was coming back up to us. I'd lost my radio. For sure my directeur sportif would have told me but I couldn't hear anything because my radio had slipped out."
Moser often seems to struggle under the weight of his surname and the expectations it carries in Italy after the success of his family in professional cycling and especially his uncle Francesco. He won a stage of the Tour of Austria in 2015 but huge expectations had surrounded his professional debut in 2012 and after he won Strade Bianche in 2013.
Moser revealed he has recently moved to Monte Carlo to leave the Moser family home. A stage victory at the Giro d'Italia could have been a turning point in his career but he was outmanoeuvred and beaten by Etixx-QuickStep.
"I'm sorry, really sorry it didn't work out," Moser said.
"This was a unique occasion for me. I'd managed to start things well by getting in the break. I felt good, and me and Brambilla rode well together. It was a similar situation to the finish in Arezzo (when Moser was third behind Brambilla after going on the attack together). He was better that day but, this time, I managed to stay with him I think I could have beaten him."
Uran targets a stage win, team classification not out of reach
The only consolation for Cannondale is that the team rose to second in the team competition thanks to also having Ramunas Navardauskas in the break. He finished 15th on the stage at 5:40 but gained time on the peloton and so helped Cannondale's cause. The US–registered team is now only 12:42 down on Astana.
The two big mountain stages in the Alps will decide if Cannondale can snatch the team prize.
Team leader Rigoberto Uran and Joe Dombrowski are also hoping to target a stage victory in the Alps after going close several times already. Uran was Cannondale's hope for the overall classification but bronchitis and a cold hit his overall classification ambitions. The Colombian is 11th in the general classification, 13:53 down on Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL-Jumbo), after suffering in the Dolomites.
"The Giro d'Italia is hard when you're healthy and so it's even harder when you're sick with a cold. You gradually pay for every effort you make," Uran told Cyclingnews.
"Last week, I tried hard to hang on but I really paid for it in the two big mountain stages and lost some important time. I hope I'm on the way back and was on form at the start of the Giro d'Italia. I really want to win a mountain stage."
Uran confirmed to Cyclingnews that he currently has no plans to ride the Tour de France this season despite his difficult Giro d'Italia.
"We've haven't talked about me riding the Tour de France, it's not in my plans. I'm going to focus on preparing for the Olympic road race. That's a big goal for me after winning a silver medal in 2012," he said.