Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) gave everything to overthrow Giro d’Italia race leader Richard Carapaz (Movistar Team) in the final mountain stage but will likely have to settle for second overall in 2019.
The Sicialian sits behind Carapaz at 1-54 minutes ahead of the final time trial in Verona on Sunday. He should be able to defend it and hold second place over the 17km, but victory is now out of reach.
“I tried to the very end, but it was difficult to do much with Carapaz and Landa so strong,” Nibali said.
“The Movistar team was strong too, they have four riders on the front in the finale and there’s not much you can do when a team is so strong.”
Nibali already won the Giro d’Italia in 2013 and 2016, as well as Tour de France and Vuelta a España titles.
He appeared to be charging back towards the top. He rode well in the Mortirolo stage, but on Saturday, he was distanced early on over the Manghen and could not make a difference later climbing to Monte Avena.
“The last climb was hard and came after a long, hard day out and a hard Giro, so one attack could have made a big difference,” continued Nibali.
“I’m not really disappointed with my Giro. I’m on the podium if everything goes well in the time trial.”
Nibali first saw Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) take control of the race and then Movistar with Carapaz. Nibali ran out of time, however, in the last week.
“I tried to go on the attack whenever possible. Carapaz raced smart and was also a bit of a surprise. Who really thought he could win the Giro at the start?” Nibali said.
“People said we let him get away but that’s not the full picture. While all the big-name rider marked each other, he was quick-thinking and went on the attack at the right moment and in the right way. He had the legs to get away on the road to Courmayeur.”
Nibali, now 34 years old, will race the Tour de France this summer.
“34 can be a limit in some ways but Chris Froome is just six months younger than me and he’s still going strong,” Nibali added.
“We’re very professional in how we approach our training, racing and our lives. That’s makes a difference.”