After three weeks and 3537.6km of racing, Mikel Landa (Movistar) lost out on a Giro d'Italia podium position when Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) put enough time into him in the final time trial to stand third behind winner Richard Carapaz (Movistar) and second-placed Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).
It was yet another disappointment for the Spaniard in 2017 missed the Tour de France podium by a single second.
Landa started the final 17km time trial around Verona with a slim 23-second lead on Roglic but the gap proved to be too small. Landa was still one hundred metres from the finish when he ran out of time and lost third place overall by eight seconds.
Roglic, the winner of the stage 9 time trial in San Marino, finished a distant 10th in Verona after a long and bruising fight for overall victory. Performing below his usual high time trial standards, Roglic came in 25 seconds slower than stage winner Chad Haga (Team Sunweb) and even three seconds slower than Nibali. However, Landa was even slower, 31 seconds behind Roglic.
Landa's sad eyes revealed his inner disappointment.
The friendly Basque is considered as a major Grand Tour talent but is often the bridesmaid at the foot of the podium, looking up to weaker rivals who, for one reason or another, manage to finish ahead of him when it really matters.
The Giro d'Italia has been something of a microcosm of Landa's complex Grand Tour experiences. In 2015, he took third overall and back-to-back stages and often looked as if he could topple Alberto Contador had he not been hamstrung by internal team politics in Astana.
In 2017 he crashed badly on the Blockhaus stage but bounced back to take a stage win and the king of the mountains jersey before going on to finish fourth in the Tour de France. After 18 crash-and-injury-ridden months at Movistar, including a collarbone fracture in February, Landa is back to his unpredictable best but again finished on the fourth step of the Giro d'Italia podium.
"Well, eight seconds is something. I also lost a Tour de France podium (in 2017) by one second, so I prefer to lose by eight instead of just one…" Landa said in the mixed zone below the Verona Roman Amphitheatre as Carapaz, Nibali and Roglic celebrated on the podium.
"I am happy for Richie's win and for the team classification, too. I'm a bit disappointed for my fourth place but it was a difficult challenge. I gave it everything but a (time trial) specialist like Roglic beat me. That's sport. I really fought. I gave everything I had and I couldn't have done anything better. I am leaving satisfied because I gave everything I had."
Landa had a disastrous opening time trial, losing 1:07 to Roglic in just eight kilometres. However, he was arguably the best climber of the Giro d'Italia but Carapaz was just as smart, with Landa forced to lay the loyal teammate role when Carapaz rode away, won the stage to Courmayeur and took control of the maglia rosa.
"At the beginning of the race, you never know what you will need at the end of the race," Landa said with a hint of irony. "If I could have gone a half-second faster on every stage, I would have been third."
Landa is widely expected to leave the Movistar team and become a Grand Tour team leader at Bahrain-Merida in 2020, replacing Nibali, who is set to move to Trek-Segafredo. Nairo Quintana has claimed team leadership at Movistar for the Tour de France but Landa appeared unwilling to step aside yet again after staying loyal and protecting Carapaz's hopes in the last week.
"I will have my chance. I think we will have two leaders for the Tour de France and I will fight for the GC," Landa said with a show of pride. "Nothing is sure about my future but I hope to be a leader of a team and be close to victory."