Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) went closer than ever before to winning a stage at the Tour de France during stage 2 in La-Roche-sur-Yon on Sunday. He needed several minutes of extra riding around in circles beyond the finish line to overcome his frustration, anger and disappointment to losing to Peter Sagan.
"It's a real pity not to win," Colbrelli said soon after at the Bahrain-Merida team bus, still struggling to come to terms with coming so close to victory.
"I used a lot of energy to fight for Sagan's wheel, there was lots of shouldering going on, it was crazy. It's a pity because Sagan got the jump on me and I just couldn't get him back. The strongest rider won today, we all know how good Peter is, but at the same time I’m happy and proud of my performance. This is a big Tour sprint and I was right up there in the scrum. I’ll try again for sure."
Colbrelli has confirmed his WorldTour sprinting credentials since joining Bahrain-Merida in 2017, winning a stage at Paris-Nice and at the recent Tour de Suisse ahead of Fernando Gaviria and Sagan. He struggled in the Tour de France sprints in 2017, but appears stronger and smarter a year on.
His Bahrain-Merida teammates also have to protect Vincenzo Nibali's hopes of overall victory but Colbrelli has some support and thrives on technical finishes like that in La-Roche-sur-Yon.
"This year we've got a great team that is helping Vincenzo hold his position up front in the finale and that is also helping me. I'm not as supported as Quick-Step and Bora-Hansgrohe with a lead-out for the sprints but it does mean I'm upfront and able to sprint," Colbrelli explained without any complaint of his role and status.
"I was keeping an eye on Vincenzo in the finale because he's our leader but then I dived in the sprint and had a go.
"It was a crazy finale, with lots of crashes and lots of stress but the Tour is the Tour, we know what it's like. We also know that things will fall into place after the crazy first week. I can only hope to win a stage sooner rather later."