Sagan sprung early to try and ambush the two riders out front and got ahead of rival Elia Viviani, but it was not to be

World champion Peter Sagan said stage 18 of the Vuelta a España was “one of his last chances” to win in the rainbow jersey after he missed out to the breakaway.

The 28-year-old Bora-Hansgrohe rider stormed after the two remaining escapees in the small Catalonian town of Llieda.

Sagan held off super sprinter Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) but could not catch Sven Erik Bystrøm (UAE Team Emirates) or Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal), the latter winning.

>>>Jelle Wallays denies the peloton and wins stage 18 of Vuelta a España 2018 from breakaway

“That was one of my last chances in the rainbow jersey and I wanted to give it a go,” Sagan told Cycling Weekly.

“I saw those two up the road, yeah [I had to go long], but that’s it, we couldn’t get them. I did what I could do with those two guys, I had to go early and third was the best I could do. It’s like that.”

Sagan’s run in the rainbow jersey is nearing its end. He won three consecutive titles and has worn the world champion’s colours since Richmond in 2015, but admitted that the Innsbruck course will be too hard for him to win a fourth.

The warm Spanish days mark his last in this rainbow era. Sagan showered in his Bora-Hansgrohe team bus then walked over to his personalised Sagan trailer.

Only three more days remain in this year’s edition of the Spanish Grand Tour: two in Andorra’s mountains and the final circuit around Spain’s capital Madrid.

“Madrid? Yeah,” the Slovakian added. “That’s my last shot and I’ll give it a go.”

Sagan gave a thumbs up and then a helper shut the door to the trailer with its motor running.

“We know that today was a big chance for Peter,” Sports Director Enrico Poitschke said, referring to the undulating finish into town that suited Sagan.

“We tried our best but it wasn’t enough. Viviani is so good in this Vuelta. It’s hard to beat him. Today, though, we saw it’s possible.

“We have one more time in Madrid, and we will try there.”