Davide Appollonio was unable to make it third time lucky on the final stage of the Tour de Wallonie after being narrowly denied once again in Belgium.
The Italian was thrust right into the mix as the race reached its conclusion, and despite making a strong late kick for the line, he had to settle for third place after Danilo Napolitano (Acqua & Sapone) had wrapped up his third stage victory by the closest of margins.
In fact, so tight was Napolitano’s winning advantage, that second-placed rider Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol) actually thought he had snatched victory, and flung his arms aloft in what proved to be a premature celebration.
Appollonio was less than half a wheel further back at the line, with Luke Rowe hanging on for fifth place on the day after his well-timed lead out.
Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Nissan) meanwhile, was once again positioned in the sizeable front group to ensure he wrapped up his overall victory with a one-second advantage over Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM). Salvatore Puccio was Team Sky’s highest-ranked rider, 15 seconds adrift in 25th.
The 179.2km passage from Welkenraedt was tightly controlled from the off and only 89km remained before the first break of the day made it up the road.
That move initially contained Pieter Jacobs (Topsport Vlaanderen) – who was just 15 seconds down on GC – although he dropped back after taking maximum points on the day’s third intermediate sprint which left Maxime Anciaux (Idemasport) and Julien Bérard (AG2R) to press on as a twosome.
Anciaux would eventually fall off the pace as well, and despite a late attempt to bridge over to Bérard from Boris Dron and Christophe Prémont (both Wallonie), the peloton was back as one as they passed under the 10km to go banner.
By that point RadioShack-Nissan were at the head of affairs to ensure race-leader Nizzolo was suitably well protected, but as they swept into Perwez, Team Sky had assumed control for a second day in succession.
Jeremy Hunt took a big turn to drop Rowe off on the final corner, and on the closing straight Appollonio made his move but was narrowly thwarted again by the on-form Napolitano and soon to be red-faced Meersman.
Looking back on the performance, Sports Director Steven de Jongh admitted it had been another missed opportunity but was pleased with the efforts his riders had demonstrated throughout the week.
He told us: “Puccio, Jez and Luke did a really good job at the end there but Davide just lost Luke’s wheel as they went around that last corner and by the time he’d got it back it was a little too late. That meant he had to start his sprint from further back and that ultimately proved the difference.
“He is disappointed not to have won because he is in good shape at the moment and will be looking to learn from the small mistakes he has made this week. He’s got the speed but he just has to get things right at the end.
“As for the race as a whole, I think we performed well. Puccio and Jez both produced really solid displays and Luke was really impressive, especially after his recent illness.
“It was a tough race for CJ (Sutton) but when you consider that it was his first competition since Luxembourg, and only his second race since the Classics, it explains why he struggled out there. Hopefully he can rest up now and I’m expecting him to be much stronger for the Eneco Tour.”