Diego Rosa broke down in tears immediately after finishing Il Lombardia, trying to hide his emotions and disappointment for finishing second by burying his head over his handlebars. He sobbed deeply and refused any interviews until after the podium ceremony.
By the time he'd opened the spumante with winner Esteban Chaves (Orica-Bike Exchange) and Rigorberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) had managed to rediscover his usual smile and optimism even he was hugely disappointed to miss out on victory in the final Monument Classic of the 2016.
"I really believed I could win it. I knew that Chaves was perhaps faster than me in the sprint but I didn't want to be beaten," he said to the media at the finish.
"I'm disappointed not to win and to have lost it in the last 50 metres but this second place also proves that I can be up there, as I was Liège - Bastogne - Liège. I've got to come back and win it."
Rosa opted to lead the breakaway trio into the final downhill right turn that led into the finishing straight. However the corner came 25 metres from the line and Chaves was able to pass him in the very final metres.
"I knew about the final corner and so I went for it. I crashed in the corner two years and so this time perhaps I braked a little too much. If I'd have come out of the corner with two metres on the others, then I could have done it," he explained.
"When I was out front I thought I was going to win but it didn't happen. I can only comeback next year and try again."
Rosa was supposed to support Astana team leader Fabio Aru in the finale of the hardest Il Lombardia ever. He helped the Sardinian on many of the eight tough climbs in the middle of the race but when Chaves, Uran and Roman Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) surged clear on the Selvino climb with 35km to go, he was given permission to ride his own race and go after them. He made a huge effort to close the gap but was still strong for the last climb to Bergamo Alta.
"Fabio told me to play my own card as soon as I told him I felt good after 60km. He's a gentleman," Rosa said, not regretting using precious energy before the final attacks.
"We knew that the riders who rode the Vuelta would be strongest today, it was the case last year when Vincenzo won. Chaves was on form and so deserved his win. I didn't ride the Vuelta and so I had to make some huge sacrifices to be competitive. Only me and my girlfriend know how much I put into this race. Unfortunately the Vuelta gives you form to win such a hard race like Lombardia."
Rosa insisted he has no regrets about his race.
"I won't have time to reflect on things too much and be sad about finishing second. I've got a flight tonight with some friends for a bachelor party and we're going to celebrate for sure. It's also time to take a break from racing," he said, clearly looking forward to partying a little after a long season.
"The only thing I'd change was my decision to make that final late attack with a kilometre and something to go. It was really pointless but we were all there fighting for victory. I knew I wasn't the fastest so I decided to try something. It wasn't a clever move…"
With Team Sky in 2017
It has widely been reported that Rosa will join Team Sky for 2017 but he hesitated in confirming his new team.
"For sure I'm going to leave Astana. I haven't say anything about my future so far because I wanted to show some respect to the Astana team while wearing their jersey. Now my season is over I'll be able to say something in the next few days and talk about the future," he said.
"I can only thank Astana. They helped me develop and improve as a rider. When you change teams you always learn something new, so I think it's right to try something new. I think I'm the kind of rider who earns a leadership role and space to ride my own race when I'm on form. I'm not at the level to demand a leadership role all season but I think it's right to try to win when you can. Otherwise I'm happy to ride for my teammates and team leader."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.