Edward Theuns clawed his way one step closer to the top of the podium Wednesday at the Tour of Turkey, but Trek-Segafredo's designated sprinter couldn't hold off a late surge from Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) as the Irishman claimed his second consecutive stage win.
"I am disappointed because the team could not have done it better," Theuns said of his lead-out during the finale in Fethiye.
"I saw in the last straight that Sam was in my wheel, and yeah, there's not much I could do about it. Maybe I went a bit early, but I know that I am not super explosive, so I had to try something."
Theuns' team took control of the pace in the final kilometre, but Bennett forced his way into the train and waited to pounce. Trek-Segafredo dropped Thuens off with a clear road, but with Bennett latched onto his slipstream there was little he could do against the faster rider.
"He was in my wheel so he could come over me," Theuns said. "In the end, it's one spot closer than yesterday, so that's positive, but I feel really disappointed because the guys did such a great job. I feel really sad that I cannot give them the reward for their great work."
The peloton was not in a hurry to finish Wednesday's 206km second stage, setting a pace well below the slowest predicted time in the road book, so there was plenty of energy left to crank up the pace in the final kilometres.
Trek took control and provided a seemingly perfect lead-out for the team's finisher, but Thuens and his team could not overcome the crafty Bennett's superior top-end speed.
"We stayed really well organized and took our line on the right side of the road," Theuns said. "(Jarlinson) Pantano came with an acceleration with one and a half [kilometers] to go and took the team to the front. We were still with three or four guys and (Marco) Coledan could go into the last corner in the lead and Boy (van Poppel) was in his wheel and I was in [Boy's] wheel – it was amazing.
"I left a little gap between Boy and me to get the slipstream to launch my sprint, but Bennett is really explosive; he's just faster than me. Maybe one of the stages where it's a bit more selective, maybe there I can grab a victory. Today, he was just faster."
It's doubtful Theuns will get another shot at Bennett on Thursday as the race heads into the mountains, but there should be at least one more chance for the sprinters before the race concludes on Sunday. Trek-Segafredo, meanwhile, will turn its focus to Pantano and the general classification.
Asked abut Pantano's form in Turkey, Theuns said it remains unknown after a long season for the Colombian.
"He started in Australia in January, he's [been] on the Tour, on the Vuelta, so for sure he's really tired, but we hope he can reload one more time," Theuns said. "I think the hardest part is the mental part for him to still be racing now after such a long season. Let's hope he can do it…
"I really appreciate his help because normally he should save his legs, but he's there in the last two kilometers. I am happy that he came and put us in a really good position; his work there was really good."