Stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia looked perfect for Peter Sagan and his Bora-Hansgrohe team worked all day to set him up for a victory in Canale but they missed catching breakaway rider and stage winner Taco van der Hoorn (Intermarchè-Wanty Gobert) by just four seconds.
Sagan took a frustrated third place in the sprint from the reduced peloton behind Davide Cimolai (Israel Start-Up Nation).
Sagan's teammates successfully distanced many of his quicker rivals on a series of short, sharp climbs in the final 50km, with Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), stage 2 winner and points classification leader Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Qhubeka Assos) all left behind in the gruppetto.
But on the technical run-in to the line in Canale, Van der Hoorn could take the corners quicker than the reduced peloton and hold on to claim his team's first win of the season.
Sagan, still 21 points off his goal, the points classification ciclamino jersey, says the team did their best.
"I think we had the perfect strategy for today and the team worked very well to execute it. Once again, I'd like to thank all my teammates for their tremendous effort, they worked so hard to try our chance at the stage win. We did the best we could, just the way we do every day. We are a team that always races to win, not settle for second or third," Sagan said.
Team director Jan Valach said his riders did their maximum from start to finish but didn't get help from the other teams. Ineos Grenadiers did not work to protect Filippo Ganna's pink jersey and when Cofidis finally came to the fore in the final kilometres the escapees still had almost a minute's lead.
"We can't do everything on our own, you also need some collaboration from the rest of the peloton," Valach said. "All our guys put in a tremendous effort and fought for the victory, that's after all what we do. Peter was second in the group sprint, but that's not the point, we race to finish first not second or third."
Last year, Sagan missed out on the ciclamino jersey to quadruple stage winner Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) but won a stage in Tortoreto. There are still plenty of stages left for him to target, although stage 4 to Sestola, with the category 2 Colle Passerino coming 2.5km from the line, we likely won't see the three-time world champion sprinting for the stage win on Tuesday.
The next bunch sprint should come on Wednesday on the pan-flat stage to Cattolica while Sagan next best chance will come on stage 7 to Termoli where the course has some mid-stage climbs to shed the sprinters and an uphill run to the line.
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