Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Sergio Henao, Rigoberto Urán - Sky had an embarrassment of riches heading into the finale Ardennes Classic, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but failed to live up to any expectation of delivering a podium. It was enough for Sky team principal Sir David Brailsford to admit that he was "disappointed with the final result," but he was unprepared to draw any firm conclusions for the spring Classics season.
"It would be nice to get a win for sure but it's not for want of trying," Brailsford told Cyclingnews. "If they were easy things to win, the five or six Classics, then it wouldn't be such a big deal. But they're not. So we'll keep trying.
"The thing is you can't lose heart, you learn, you go away, you dust yourself down and come back and fight again."
Of the Classics, Sky walks away from 2013 with two podiums, Sergio Henao's second place at Flèche Wallonne and Mathew Hayman's third place at Dwars door Vlaanderen. At Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Sky had been active at the front of the peloton to bring back the six-man breakaway that had been up ahead for the majority of the 261km race. Lopez and Urán were among the attacks that came with 35km of racing remaining but their best result across the line was Henao in 16th, 18 seconds back on winner Dan Martin.
"We wanted Froomie and Serg and Rigo in the final and that's where they were," said Brailsford. "And the way it played out, from La Redoute we tried to ride an offensive race with Lopez and then Rigo attacking and that's how it goes and that's racing, isn't it.
"What we wanted to do today was actually be on the front foot rather than just wait and I think that's what the guys tried to do but it didn't come off. Fair play to Dan Martin. Rather than see what other people didn't do I think it's more important to see what he did do and I think he deserves all the credit for pretty much riding everybody off the wheel . The way they rode today with Hesjedal taking it on, that was textbook stuff and it was great to see Dan have such a fantastic result."
Asked what Sky would take out of the Classics moving into next year, given the considerable resources that had gone into the last five weeks of racing, Brailsford would not be drawn on firm conclusions.
"I think it's a bit too early just after this race now, we'll go away and think about it and see what we learned and but that into our planning for next year," he said. "Straight after a race like this is not the moment...