Britain’s Ben Swift admitted his agonising defeat to Marcel Kittel on stage three of the Giro d’Italia was both bitterly disappointing and encouraging.
The 26-year-old Team Sky rider had looked set to claim his first stage victory in a Grand Tour when he led with 50m to go, but his German rival surged back with a late burst of pace to win by the length of a wheel.
It was a remarkable performance from Kittel, who was so fatigued by his efforts that he crumpled to the ground just after the line.
Swift said afterwards: “It couldn’t have been any closer really. I’m not sure what you have to do to beat Marcel Kittel. He wins even when he gives you a head start.
“I’m disappointed to come so close and not get the win, especially with it being in Dublin after the reception that we have had in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
In the mix
“But, having said that, to come second behind Kittel, you have to be happy with that. I was just hoping to get in the mix in a sprint finish, so to be challenging for the win was a good outcome.”
Swift’s second place continued what has so far been an eye-catching season. He took a surprise podium at Milan-San Remo in March and followed that up with stage wins at the Settimana Coppi e Bartali and the Tour of the Basque Country.
He has now finished seventh and second in the last two sprints at the Giro, and with another bunch finish expected on stage four in Bari on Tuesday, the Yorkshireman is confident he can continue to pose a threat to his fellow fast men.
He added: “My form is good. I was really happy with my sprint today, and yesterday also. I finished seventh yesterday, but once I got up to speed I made up a lot of ground, which was promising.
“It gives me a lot of confidence for the sprints later in the race. Tuesday is going to be a pure bunch sprint. It’s going to be quite fast and technical and we will get stuck in there and I am looking forward to it.”