Rotherham’s Ben Swift said he was ‘gutted’ to miss out on overall victory at Settimana Coppi e Bartali by just two seconds.
Team Sky’s Swift was pipped by Louis Meintjes at the top of the general classification after producing a brilliant display on final hilly stage on Sunday. The MTN-Qhubeka rider attacked the peloton on the penultimate climb and wrapped up a solo victory on the uphill finish in Roccapelago one minute and 12 seconds ahead of the fourth-placed Swift.
It was the 10 bonus seconds awarded to Meintjes which proved pivotal – the South African began the day one minute and 20 seconds down on Swift, and secured his victory by just two seconds.
Swift said: “To lose the race by two seconds is gutting but I was so tired I couldn’t even get out of my saddle at the end. I keep thinking ‘what if’, but know I couldn’t have given any more.
“I’ve got to look at the positives. Finishing second after such a mountainous week of racing is pleasing, and it was just unfortunate I got rolled on the line for third as that would’ve given me the bonus seconds I needed to win.
“It’s been a strong team display this week, especially given we lost two riders through illness. We were the only WorldTour team in the race which meant we had to control all week and I’m happy with the way we rode. I’ve got to focus on the future now. I’ve got a busy schedule of racing coming up and I want to take this form into those and get some more results.”
Swift had been well supported throughout the stage and gave absolutely everything on a parcours that wasn’t suited to his strengths as a sprinter.
Sergio Henao led him up the final climb – with the Colombian ending the day in sixth position – and Swift battled on for second place on the overall standings.
Swift added: “I gave absolutely everything I had. There were 3,500 metres of climbing, and the one where Meintjes went away was so steep. It was 18% for about 1.5km and then had stepped section all the way to the summit.”
The 27-year-old had taken the race lead after winning stage two on Friday - see the YouTube video.