Davide Appollonio was denied a stage victory by Danilo Napolitano for the second time in three days on the penultimate leg of the Tour de Wallonie.
Appollonio had been led out by another text-book display from his team-mates and jumped onto Napolitano’s wheel on the pan-flat run in to Oreye, but despite his best efforts the young Italian couldn’t edge past his compatriot, who wrapped up his second stage victory by less than half a bike length.
Klaas Lodewyck (BMC Racing) took third place on the day, and Giacomo Nizzolo’s presence in the midst of the front group ensured the RadioShack man maintained his one-second General Classification lead over Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil).
The 207km trek from Huy had got off to a fast-paced start and the Côte de Grevesse had already been crested by the time Maurits Lammertink (Vacansoleil), Marco Haller (Katyusha), Geoffrey Soupe (FDJ), Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) and Julien Vermote (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) eventually sprung clear.
The quintet were quickly joined by Kevin Van Melsen (Accent.jobs) and over the next hour saw their advantage grew to 4min 30sec before RadioShack and Lotto-Belisol took control of the chasing bunch.
That lead was gradually hauled back as they edged towards their destination, and Björn Thurau (Europcar) made a successful bridge after the gap had dropped under a minute. By that time, Lammertink had fallen off the front, and his accomplices would also be swept up before they got within 10km of the finish line.
Once the catch had been made, Team Sky were roused into action and hit the front of the peloton with 6km remaining. That was where they stayed as well as numerous late attacks were thwarted, and Appollonio popped perfectly onto Napoltano’s wheel as the action reached a flat-out conclusion.
Appollonio made his kick with around 100m to go, and despite moving up on Napolitano, he couldn’t quite pass the Acqua & Sapone sprinter, whose last-gasp lunge sealed his third victory of the season.
When we caught up with Sports Director Steven de Jongh after the stage, he was pleased with the effort his team had displayed and revealed they would be looking to make it third time lucky on Wednesday.
He told us: "Davide left it a bit late today and missed out by a few centimetres. It was a shame because he’d built up good speed on the closing straight and it had been a great effort by the team to get him into that position.
"We’ve only got five guys here now, so to see four of them pulling for those last 6km was really pleasing. Obviously we’re frustrated not to win but it was a good day compared to the disappointment we experienced yesterday with Michael [Barry] breaking his arm.
"Tomorrow is another day and I’m expecting it to come down to another bunch sprint. Napolitano will be looking for his third win so that should mean Acqua & Sapone take control of the peloton along with RadioShack, who are looking after the jersey with Nizzolo.
"We’ll try again for the victory with Appollonio – I think the boys deserve it because they’ve done some good work here - but the main thing is we finish this race safe and carry that form into the races to come."