Edvald Boasson Hagen was denied victory in the dying seconds after mounting a brave late attack on the third stage of the Tour of Beijing.
The Norwegian champion had attacked solo with 3km to go on the uphill drag to the finish line, and despite giving it everything he had, he was hauled back agonisingly inside the final 10m but still clung on for third place after Astana’s Francesco Gavazzi had pipped Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) to the win.
That result saw Boasson Hagen claw four seconds back on the General Classification, where he now trails race leader Tony Martin (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) by 52 seconds in fourth place overall.
Stage three had seen the race travel 162.5km from Men Tou Gou to the Great Wall of China in Badaling and seven riders had lit up the action when they attacked early in the day.
Their lead had stretched to almost five minutes before Omega Pharma – Quick-Step roused the peloton into action behind, and their gap had been gradually diminished as they approached the final climb of the day.
Team Sky had assisted that chase, and were perfectly positioned on the front when Christian Meier (Orica GreenEdge) became the last breakaway rider to be swept up in the final 10km.
As the road ramped upwards, Sylvain Georges (AG2R) and Igor Anton (Euskaltel) both tried their hands off the front, but it was Boasson Hagen’s attempt which looked the most like sticking after he powered clear on the false flat, 3km from home.
The 25 year old quickly opened up a lead of over 10 seconds, and had rounded the final corner of the category-three ascent in the lead position, only to see his rivals emerge in hot pursuit.
Boasson Hagen battled on bravely but was captured within touching distance of the line and shuck his head in frustration as Gavazzi celebrated his first victory of the season.
Back at the hotel, Sports Director Marcus Ljungqvist admitted it had been agonising to witness Boasson Hagen caught so late in the day, but he was delighted by the effort his riders had shown.
He told us: "Even though we haven't got the biggest team here, the guys are all riding really well together and they were all towards the front as the race came back together making sure Edvald was in a good position.
"It's too bad the bunch caught him on the line today because he had followed the plan to the letter. Edvald knew exactly when to attack and it would have been amazing if the move had worked out.
"He's disappointed not to have won, obviously, but happy at the same time that he's able to produce those types of attacks.
"There's still chances for him to make up time in the next few days. Tomorrow has three category-three climbs coming near the end of the race, but I don't think there will be massive changes on the GC.
"Saturday has a hard climb at the end of it though where things could happen, so even though it will be difficult to beat Tony Martin, we will still try until the very end."