Alejandro Valverde continues to rack up the podium places in the Vuelta a Espana, and recognises that it was impossible to outpace either Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) or Chris Horner (Leopard Trek) in the battle for victory in Madrid.
Unlike the Italian or the American, Valverde reached the Vuelta having raced the Tour de France and raced it flat out.
"They've both been stronger, but I can't be dissatisfied," Valverde said. "I'd have liked a stage win, but I've been second and third, and that's what getting the points jersey shows."
The Angliru was his last chance for that, but Valverde was outpaced at the crunch moments by Nibali and Horner and had to drop back. When he finally came past Nibali, it was too late for him to do more than secure his podium position.
"I had to go up at a steady pace, I was going well, but one of my rivals had to crack and they didn't," he said.
The winner in 2009, second in 2006 and 2012, Valverde's third place overall comes a decade after he netted the same result in the 2003 Vuelta. He also has a fourth and a fifth place overall.
The next target though, is to augment his podium positions in the Worlds - where he has twice been bronze and twice silver - with a gold in Italy.
"That would be great," Valverde said with a smile.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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