Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) looked strong enough to take a second consecutive stage victory at Prato di Tivo at Tirreno-Adriatico on Saturday, but a lack of conviction when he attacked and a lack of support from Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) left him third on the stage behind Chris Froome (Team Sky) and puts him in third place overall behind Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
As he quickly pulled on a warm jersey and wrapped up to descend from the finish to the Astana team bus, Nibali praised Froome for his well-timed stage winning attack but complained about Contador failing to work when they had a gap on the Kenyan-born Briton.
"When Froome went, I waited for Contador to go after him but he didn’t have having the legs," Nibali said in frustration.
"I said, 'C'mon, do a bit' but he just stayed on my wheel. It's a pity because we could have fought out for the win and stopped Froome from getting back up to us.
"Froome won it well. His team worked well for him. He went at the right moment and then in the finale it was all about what you had left.”
Nibali finished 11 seconds behind Froome and the Team Sky leader also gained six more seconds thanks to the difference in the time bonuses. Nibali is 16 seconds behind Kwiatkowski and 12 seconds behind Froome.
The ten, six and four second time bonuses awarded to the first three riders on road stages will be vital, especially those on Sunday's uphill finish in Chieti. Tuesday’s 9.3km will then decide the final overall winner of the race.
Last year, Nibali snatched victory from Chris Horner but seemed to hint that he knows he has little chance of victory this year.
"I'm happy with my ride, the team was great. On a finish like this, it's good to be up there," he said.
"It would have been nice to win too but I've bigger races than this ahead of me this season."