Movistar's Nairo Quintana started the final time trial of the 100th Giro d'Italia in the maglia rosa but as widely expected, there was nothing he could do to stop Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) from snatching overall victory in Milan's Piazza Duomo.
Quintana finished 27th in the stage 21 time trial, 1:24 down on Dumoulin. That was more than enough for the Dutchman to win but Quintana did manage to hold off Vincenzo Nibali to finish second overall, 31 seconds behind after three intense and aggressive weeks of racing.
"We worked hard and rode well but you can't always get what you aim for in a bike race," Quintana said philosophically after climbing on the final podium in Milan and hearing the many Colombian fans shout his name rather than that of Dumoulin.
Despite an often tense battle with Dumoulin and stares across the podium area as the warmed down on the rollers, Quintana sportingly praised Dumoulin for his performance and first ever Grand Tour victory.
"Tom was very strong, and we're still on the podium and that is still important," Quintana said.
"I could have done better in the mountains but my legs weren't great. We knew that we needed to take more time on him against the clock but it's hard for me against a specialist like Tom. We did a great time trial. Some said that we could lose a place on the final podium but that didn't happen. In truth I was still thinking about possibly winning the Giro, and so to finish second, well, that's not bad."
Illness slows Quintana on the mountain finish to Piancavallo
Quintana is a master of masking his pain and suffering yet he rarely looked at his very best and was unable to distance Dumoulin on the key climbs and mountain finish during the Giro d'Italia. He revealed that he had been ill with a fever on the key stage finish to Piancavallo on Friday.
"I had a bit of fever, I woke up feeling a little bad that morning, and I couldn't give 100 per cent on that decisive day. You could say that I lost the Giro that day," he said, although failing to explain why his accelerations on other stages caused little damage to any of his rivals.
"It was a day that we had marked on the calendar, and we were hoping to make a big differences. But the health wasn't with us, and it didn't turn out as we had hoped, but we kept pressing, and we ended up with this podium."
The Giro-Tour double still a goal for the future
Quintana's goal of winning the Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double will now have to wait another year and Marco Pantani remains the last rider to do the double in the sport's two toughest Grand Tours. Despite defeat, Quintana has not given up hope of one year winning both.
"I am still convinced that you can do the Giro-Tour double," he said.
"We were second here, and that's with 70 kilometres of time trialing that weren't favourable for me. I think I defended myself well and despite not having good health, I could still manage to stay up with the best. Now we go to the next challenge, convinced that we can win."
Movistar team manager Eusebio Unzue confirmed that Quintana would not race before the start of the Tour de France on July 1 in Dusseldorf. Quintana is expected to head home to recover from the Giro d'Italia and do some vital final training for the Tour de France.
He remains confident that he can challenge the likes of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador in just over a month.
"We're going to continue working hard after this, things are looking good before the Tour, my legs seem to be doing well," he said, continuing to be upbeat.
"There are some details to correct, things to polish. The Giro has been a huge test and we'll analyse the results. This Giro makes me feel even more confident about my consistency in Grand Tours. I know that if I prepare well, I'll be up there with the best guys in the race – that's a huge boost of morale and for the Tour de France."