Samuel Sánchez put on his best performance of the year in Thursday's cronoescalata in the Giro d'Italia, but there was no denying Vincenzo Nibali a barnstorming win.
Sánchez's time of 45:27 on the 20,6-kilometre course from Mori to the summit of the climb of Polsa was enough to lead the race for almost an hour, as one general classification contender after another fell short of the mark put down by the Euskaltel captain.
With only one rider still out on the road, 'Samu' was still holding the lead. But that last rider wasn't just any rider, though, and Vincenzo Nibali showed why he's posed to win the first Giro d'Italia of his career by crushing Sánchez's time by almost a minute to grab his first stage victory of this year's race and pad his overall lead significantly.
Unsurprisingly, Sánchez looked downbeat as the cameras zoomed in on him as Nibali came across the line. As per tradition, though, he didn't let his disappointment show when talking to the press afterwards, instead going on to praise his Italian rival.
"Nibali was very strong - he beat me by almost a minute", he said. "He's the maglia rosa, Italian, this is his race, he's in an enviable state of form... He had that little extra bit of motivation and he did a great ride. I can only congratulate him. He was the best.
"As for us, today was a chance for us to bag a win and we were in the fight right up until the end. We were close - it would have been a very nice win", he concluded.
The coveted stage win might have escaped him, but it was still a fruitful day for Sánchez: He rose from 15th to tenth overall, and is now only three minutes off the top five.
- (1, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), 44:29)
- 2, Samuel Sánchez, 0:58
- 49, Jorge Azanza, 4:11
- 55, Miguel Mínguez, 4:26
- 59, Egoi Martínez, 4:35
- 67, Robert Vrecer, 4:54
- 78, Gorka Verdugo, 5:10
- 118, Ricardo Mestre, 6:17
- 143, Ioannis Tamouridis, 7:13
Photo: Euskaltel Euskadi