It was a journey destined to draw to a close at some point before the Giro d'Italia reached its conclusion in Verona next weekend, but Juan Pedro López's time in the leader's maglia rosa reached its end in Turin.
The 24-year-old Spaniard has led the race since finishing second from the break atop Mount Etna 11 days ago, wearing the famous pink jersey for 10 of those and putting up some spirited defences of his unexpected lead along the way.
On Blockhaus, the Trek-Segafredo talent gave his all to limit the damage as the GC favourites attacked one another almost two minutes up the road, but he held on by 12 seconds last Sunday. Such a slim lead, though, would certainly be gone by the Alps, and so it proved on the hilly, frantic stage 14 in Turin.
López ended his day 4:25 down on stage winner Simon Yates, having dropped from the elite lead group at 28km from the line, when Richard Carapaz attacked up the Superga climb.
Now in ninth overall, 4:04 off the lead and five minutes up on 10th placed compatriot Alejandro Valverde, López said later that he was happy despite losing the lead, having given his all during the brutal stage.
"Like yesterday, I'm super happy because I gave my 100%, but the other riders were stronger than me," he said after finishing. "But I'm super happy because I stayed 10 days in the maglia rosa and I can't believe it.
"Amazing," he added, describing the 147km stage. "I don't have words for this stage because it was super hard. Like I said before I did my 100% and tried to defend the maglia rosa but eh, what can you do? I enjoy every day, every kilometre, and I'll also enjoy tomorrow.
"For sure, everybody expected like a bonfire today. It was like this, in the final 70km it was full gas, and they made the race hard. For me, in my opinion, I only stay in the wheel and try to suffer like a pig. I don't have words to describe the moment."
López said that he got emotional as he crossed the line due to fans shouting his name by the side of the road, adding that his time in pink had been "the best moments of my life".
Earlier on in the stage, when Bora-Hansgrohe provoked the decisive splits in the peloton on the unclassified hills leading up to the first run through the finish, López made the cut at the front. He hung in there with the major GC favourites even as the lead group was whittled down to 10 men over the Superga and Colle della Maddalena.
The second ascent of the Superga proved too much, though, as he matched accelerations from the likes of Carapaz and Vincenzo Nibali early on the climb before hitting his limit and then dropping back further up.
"Only in one moment maybe I got full gas when Carapaz and Hindley attack," he said of his potential mistake. "Maybe then if I take it at my pace, I could maybe stay more time in the front. But OK, it's the first time in my life I tried to defend the maglia and for sure I take a lot of experience.
"For sure, the Giro is still alive, eh? Like I say, I still need to go like Cholo Simeone – 'partido a Partido'," he added, quoting the Atletico Madrid football manager's 'game by game' mantra. "And I will see what happens. I will try to do good GC and try to defend as much as possible."
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