Dario Cioni was Team Sky's first man home in 25th behind Ivan Basso as Bradley Wiggins dropped out of contention on the general classification after a brutal 15th stage of the Giro d'Italia.
"We've got to keep looking at the bigger picture - the [Tour de France] is Bradley's ultimate goal."
The 222km slog from Mestre featured four big climbs, culminating with one of the toughest in the world up to Monte Zoncolan, a 10.1km ascent with an average gradient of 11.9% and a maximum of 22%.
It was Liquigas' Basso who took the honours and his clear-cut triumph on the stage moved him up to third in the overall standings.
Cioni finished 6:45 behind Basso on the stage and is now 19th on the GC but Wiggins has dropped down to 23rd after losing 25:32 on the day.
Wiggins had underlined his form with a fine ride in Saturday's 14th stage but Team Sky Sports Director Sean Yates had warned afterwards that Sunday's route would be treated with caution.
And after the riders had crossed the line at the top of Monte Zoncolan, Yates told us: "Bradley didn't feel too good - maybe yesterday took a lot out of him - and that's it for him on the GC but as I said yesterday the climbs in the Giro just do not suit him.
"The one today up Monte Zoncolan was so steep that it was almost bordering on the ridiculous.
"The climbs in the Tour de France are very different and we've got to keep looking at the bigger picture - that race is Bradley's ultimate goal.
"Dario kept the flag flying to a certain extent today and the objective always was to see how far Bradley could go in the first couple of weeks - and today there was no point in breaking it or pushing him any further in this race."
Basso battles to victory
The stage went to Basso who got the better of world road race champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) after an absorbing duel up Monte Zoncolan.
Basso, Evans and Michele Scarponi (Androni Giocattoli) broke clear of their rivals soon after the start of that final climb and had the stage between them as they picked off an earlier six-man break.
Scarponi was dropped when Basso kicked with 6km to go but Evans doggedly stuck with the Italian in front of incredible crowds who covered the mountain.
However Evans' resistance was finally broken with 3.7km remaining and from that point onwards Basso, the winner of the 2006 Giro, went further and further clear as the rest of the field toiled behind him.
Basso eventually crossed the line one minute and 19 seconds ahead of Evans, with Scarponi a further 11 seconds adrift in third.
It all meant another shake up on the general classification, but David Arroyo holds onto the maglia rosa after coming home 3:51 behind Basso.
Arroyo is 2:35 ahead of Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) while Basso is up to third place at 3:33 down.
The riders now have a well-deserved rest day on Monday before a mountain time trial up to Plan de Corones.
And looking to the final week Yates is still hopeful of more success for Team Sky, saying: "There's one flat stage and obviously we've also got the time trial in Verona on the last day which I would think Bradley can pinpoint, especially now there's no pressure to hang on in the GC."