As his Sky teammate Sergio Henao was fighting for victory at Pais-Nice, Geraint Thomas was locked in his own battle at Tirreno-Adriatico, fighting for stage victory on the steep climbs in the Le Marche region of central Italy and trying to move up in the overall classification before Tuesday's final 10km time trial.
The 2016 Paris-Nice winner was again able to respond and mark Nairo Quintana when he attacked on the steep 1km climb on the outskirts of Fermo. However, like the rest of the select front group of nine riders that fought for victory in the centre of the historic city, he could not match Peter Sagan's late surge and so win the stage.
Thomas finished fourth behind Sagan, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) after Team Sky had ridden an aggressive race, sending Michal Kwiatkowski, Mikel Landa, Diego Rosa and Vasil Kiryienka on the attack in search of the elusive winning move.
Team Sky tried every move they could but ultimately had little to show for their display of aggression.
"I felt pretty good, the team was good," Thomas pointed out. "I didn't expect the finish to be like that. I knew it was two corners (before the finish) and I wanted to lead into the penultimate one. Then I just saw the road go up and I was just caught out of position a bit. I am just racing for the win and let the GC boys race here, I was just trying to win the stage. But on a finish like that, there's only ever going to be one winner."
Thomas' consistently strong riding, his stage victory on stage 2 in Pomerance and his excellent climbing on stage 4 to Terminillo as he pursued Nairo Quintana have all lifted him to sixth overall in the general classification, 1:23 down on Quintana.
He could perhaps move up a place or two thanks to the final 10km time trial but nothing can erase the regrets about losing 1:20 to Quintana and important seconds to other riders in the opening team time trial due to three Team Sky riders suffering still unexplained front wheel failures. Who knows how Tirreno-Adriatico would have played out with Thomas and Team Sky a major factor in the fight for overall success.
Thomas could be fighting for every second to win overall, just as Henao did in France.
"My legs are good, but it's just a real shame about the TTT now. You look back at it... but there you go," Thomas said mixing emotion with pragmatism.
Change of goals means an easy weekend instead of the Tour of Flanders
Thomas has dedicated his 2017 to targeting the Giro d'Italia and Tirreno-Adriatico is an important test and a stepping-stone to the Corsa Rosa in May.
The Welshman will forgo all the cobbled Classics this spring despite his track record and huge potential on the climbs of Flanders and the pave of Paris-Roubaix.
His change of objective means a significant change to his training and his race programme. He will not travel to Belgium this spring and will not be based with his Team Sky Classics squad in Kortrijk later this month. Instead he will join forces with Chris Froome, keep his racing weight under control and ride the Volta a Catalunya stage race between March 20-26. Only then will he enjoy a well-deserved break and rest before preparing for the Giro d'Italia.
He is likely to watch the Tour of Flanders on television during a rare easy weekend in early April.
"Catalunya will be next for me," he explained. "I'll freshen up, go there, race hard again and then have a nice easy weekend."
To subscribe to the Cyclingnews video channel, click here.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.