Mark Cavendish felt an opportunity had slipped through his fingers after admitting a mistake cost him a second rainbow jersey at the UCI World Road Championsips in Doha.
The Manx missile finished second at the end of a 257.5km route through the Qatar desert as Slovakia’s Peter Sagan defended the title he first won in Richmond, USA, last year.
Silver caps a remarkable year for Cavendish in which he won the world Madison title on the track for a second time with Sir Bradley Wiggins, wore the Tour de France’s yellow jersey for the first time in his career, won four stages of the race to move second in the all-time winners list, and won his first Olympic medal with silver in the omnium at Rio 2016.
The race eventually came down to a bunch sprint, but Cavendish admitted a wrong move in the final 150m cost him dearly.
"I’ve got the speed, I’ve got the power in my legs but I made a tactical mistake," said the 31-year-old.
“I wanted to be on Sagan’s wheel, it looked to be that I was, then all of a sudden the road was blocked.
“I tried to find a way through, but with less than 100m to go I had to kind of stop pedalling and go round, I think Michael Matthews.
“By then it was just too late, I managed to get back on Tom Boonen, but it was too late to come back on Sagan.
“I’m a little bit disappointed, I feel like I lost gold rather than won silver, but that’s how it is.
“We did all we can and I’ve got to take positive away from it.”
Cavendish's wife Peta was understandably proud of her husband
Earlier in the day a seven-man group rode clear of the bunch, but cross-winds with 200km to go broke the race apart as the Belgian team pushed hard on the front of the peloton, causing gaps in the field.
Cavendish and national champion Adam Blythe made the split and were in the front group when it caught the breakaway with 143km left to ride.
Belgium had a strong presence in the front group with six riders driving the pace and the remainder of their team disrupting the hunt from behind.
And as a result many of the chasing pack, including German favourites Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, as well as Great Britain’s Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, Steve Cummings, Luke Rowe and Daniel Mclay, climbed off in the searing Doha heat, before the inevitable bunch finish.
Belgium’s Boonen, a world champion in 2005, claimed the bronze medal in his last full season, meaning the podium was occupied entirely by former winners of the rainbow jersey.
End of the rainbow: The all-star podium in Doha
And 2011 champion Cavendish, who suffered an intestinal infection a fortnight ago, and crashed heavily in training on Thursday, had no qualms in losing to Sagan.
“At the end of the day it’s Peter Sagan,” he concluded. “I know I was faster on the day, but he’s a good world champion, he wears that jersey with honour and he represents it well.”
Blyth eventually finished 12th, with Ben Swift 49th and Scott Thwaites 52nd of the 53 finishers.