Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) was beaten on the line by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) for the second time this season on the third stage of Paris – Nice on Tuesday. Gerrans snuck up on the right hand side after initially appearing to be out of contention for the uphill sprint finish with around 500 metres left to race.
In January, Gerrans missed out by half a wheel to the Spaniard at the Tour Down Under's queen stage on Old Willunga Hill.
Tuesday was a frustrating day for GreenEdge who started the stage a man down with sprinter Aidis Kruopis suffering from a stomach ailment. For Gerrans, it was a case of close, but not close enough.
"Obviously, we're a little bit disappointed that I couldn't quite finish it off," the reigning Australian road champion told GreenEdge.com. "We want a win here in Paris-Nice, but I think we're happy enough to have had a go. To be so close shows we're right up in there and in the mix of things. Wins in Europe aren't too far away."
Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun) was the last man standing from a three-man break which had stayed away for much of the 194km stage with the Frenchman finally reeled in on the final climb of the day, a long grind to Lac de Vassivière.
Gerrans, was well-supported by teammates Simon Clarke, Michael Albasini and Wes Sulzberger over the final kilometres, with Movistar and stage favourite Valverde at the front of the bunch.
"At this point, the guys were working together to stay at the front," Gerrans explained. "It was a really hectic final. There was a huge fight for position, and they really tried to help me out. They took me up to the best possible position. Everybody pitched in. We didn't need to have the team control the sprint – we just needed to stay in contention."
Gerrans was not in the initial seven-man charge for the line which had to negotiate a left-hand bend. Instead, he was forced to travel the long way to match up against Valverde and began his sprint "from a little far back," Gerrans said.
"I was a caught out of position a little bit. I didn't move up enough in the final kilometre, so I had to start my sprint from really far back. I came up just short on popping Valverde on the line. I felt really strong in the finish. A little bit of poor positioning cost me the win."
Wednesday's 183km fourth stage will be slightly more difficult however Gerrans is again hoping to be in the mix. The day begins with a Cat. 2 climb to Cote de Fangas with three more ascents enroute to the finish at Rodez.
"It's definitely a harder finish than today," he admitted. "It will depend, also, on how the general classification teams decide to race. They may be happy to allow a break to go up the road or they could want to keep everyone in close check."