Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) could have done no more to stop Chris Froome from riding to his second stage win and the Giro d'Italia's pink jersey on stage 19. All that was left to do at the finish was for the Dutchman to applaud.
With just one serious day remaining, Froome took over the lead with an 80km solo effort. Team Sky's star dropped former leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and held off 2017 Giro d'Italia victor Tom Dumoulin.
Dumoulin, who sat second overall at 28 seconds behind Yates, now holds second place at 40 seconds behind Froome.
"There's nothing you can do about Froome," Dumoulin said. "I didn't have the legs. I thought I rode well, but he rode super well."
The Sky camp and others sensed Yates's 13-day run in the pink jersey could be ending when the 25-year-old showed weakness on stage 18 to Prato Nevoso.
Froome ordered his men in the early move and when that did not work, he had them riding a blistering pace at the base of the Colle delle Finestre. Froome took charge with 80km to go before the road turned to hard-packed gravel.
Watch: Giro d'Italia stage 19 highlights
"Sky were super strong today," Dumoulin continued. "I had foreseen this. I knew Sky would go on Finestre. But I didn't think Froome would go so early by himself. That's special."
Dumoulin, who has ridden consistently thought the three weeks, kept a level head and never let Froome ride too far away on the gravel climb. He managed the gap to 38 seconds at the top of the Finestre with 73 kilometres to race.
That grew on the descent and over the Sestriere, and the Dutchman ended at the top of Jafferau 3-23 minutes behind Froome.
"I knew that they had something special planned for today. And he could sustain it," Dumoulin continued. "I just thought he went too fast for me. It's what it is.
"First he dropped me on the climb. But on the descent,I decided two times to wait for Sébastien Reichenbach [Team Groupama-FDJ] because he wanted to ride with me. Maybe that wasn't a good decision.
"On my own I can descend just as fast as Froome, but Reichenbach descends kind of like an old lady. With hindsight, that wasn't the best idea. But it's easy to say that afterwards."
Dumoulin has one day, three passes in 214 kilometres to Cervinia, to overhaul Froome if he wants to win a second straight Giro.
"It's going to be super difficult. But I'll keep on fighting."
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