As Sergio Paulinho (RadioShack) stopped to take a drink after crossing the Vuelta a Espana finish line in Noja, stage 18 winner Francesco Gavazzi (Lampre-ISD) came back the other way, heading to the podium to collect the cheers, the flowers and the kisses from the podium girls.
Until just 2.5km from the finish, Paulinho looked set to win and take the glory himself after he attacked the breakaway on the final climb. He had managed to open a gap of almost a minute, but Gavazzi and Jurgen Vandewalle (Omega Pharma-Lotto) were able to jump across to him and then surge clear to sprint for the stage victory.
Paulinho finished eleventh, at 1:08, tired and disappointed after working hard in the breakaway for 160km.
"I felt really good today and thought I had enough of a lead to hold on. But there was a bit of head wind. If the stage had been five kilometres shorter it would have been perfect. But there was nothing I could do when they got across to me," he told Cyclingnews trying to drown his disappointment with a cold drink.
"We worked well together and got a good gap, so we knew we'd be fighting for the stage victory. I knew that Gavazzi was fast in the sprint and so I attacked on the climb to try and win the stage. It was the best thing I could do. I knew I had to try and split the group. I did it but they came back fast."
Talking to teams for 2012
Like many of the riders caught up in the RadioShack-Leopard Trek merger, Paulinho's future for 2012 is up in the air. So far the team has confirmed 14 of the riders for the 2012 line-up, but Paulinho is not amongst them. The team has said further names will be announced on September 15 but Paulinho said he has been talking to other teams for 2012, indicating he may not be part of the RadioShack-Nissan-Trek super team.
"I have some teams that are interested in me but I'll only finalise things after the Vuelta," he said coyly.
"You'll have to wait until after Sunday to know my plans."
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