Cycling's first Grand Tour of the year, the Giro d'Italia, concluded in Rome on Sunday with Primoz Roglic crowned champion after three weeks of fabulous racing.
The Slovenian won Saturday's mountain time-trial to Monte Lussari to leapfrog Geraint Thomas, finishing the race just 14 seconds ahead of the Welshman.
Saturday's drama was fitting for a race that has seen the peloton battle both brutal weather and terrain, eventually finishing in the Roman sunshine on Sunday.
While the Tour de France is cycling's most famous event, the Giro's romance and sheer difficulty make it the race for the purists and the 106th edition did not disappoint.
|What||2024 Giro d’Italia|
|When||6th May - 28th May 2024|
The Giro's position in the calendar always means the weather can be precarious, with the May sunshine absent and the rain and wind hammering the riders in the first two weeks as they battled their way across northern Italy.
There was even a stage that had to be shortened, with the conditions meaning the day to Crans-Montana in the Swiss Alps was raced over just 74.6km following complaints from the riders.
Illness also affected the peloton, Remco Evenepoel having to depart the race when wearing the leader's pink jersey but Soudal Quick-Step's world champion will not respond by entering the Tour.
There was also frustration for the home crowd, with Ineos Grenadiers' Filippo Ganna and Domenico Pozzovivo of Israel-Premier Tech also withdrawing.
The former's departure robbed Thomas of a key lieutenant, but a bigger blow may have been Pavel Sivakov crashing out on stage 16.
That, though, was the day Thomas regained the Maglia Rosa from surprise leader Bruno Amirall and, in truth, rode an almost perfect race, but he could have had an extra edge in the mountains had Sivakov been capable of riding on in the final week.
However, in the same manner as what happened to him at the 2020 Tour when he was usurped by Tadej Pogacar, Roglic roared to victory in the penultimate day's time-trial, beating Thomas by 40 seconds in Saturday's race against the clock.
The Welshman was second on the day but it was not enough, as the Olympic champion in the discipline even overcame a mechanical issue to smash his way up Monte Lussari to move 14 seconds ahead on the general classification.
At 37, winning the Giro would have been a magnificent achievement for 2018 Tour champion Thomas but he will now set his sights on the Vuelta a Espana later in the year.
Roglic has won that race three times in his career and after adding a fourth three-week victory to his haul at the Giro, he admitted he has a newfound inner peace following his years of Tour heartbreak, losing to Pogacar in 2020 and recording DNFs in both 2021 and 2022.
With his Jumbo-Visma colleague Jonas Vingegaard the 6/5 favourite to defend his Grande Boucle title in July, Roglic is also likely to head to the Vuelta, where Thomas will be out for revenge.
While there was heartache for Thomas, there was final-day joy for another British cycling legend, Mark Cavendish, who took the victory in Sunday's ceremonial sprint.
The 38-year-old battled his way through the Giro, even finding time on the second rest day to announce that he would be retiring at the end of the year.
After some near misses, Cav finally got the job done on Sunday as the Astana Qazaqstan Team rider burst off the wheel of Movistar's Fernando Gaviria to win in Rome.
Cav is now being tipped to ride a final Tour de France, where he is 7/4 in his Rider to Win a Stage market and surpass the record of 34 victories he currently shares with Eddy Merckx.
After claiming a "bucket list" sprint win in the Italian capital on Sunday, a recording-extending fifth success on Paris' Champs-Elysees on 23rd July could prove the perfect complement to his already exceptional career.
He could have chances before that, though, with six stages listed as flat on the official route.