Ben Swift was Great Britain’s top finisher in the elite men’s road race in Richmond on Sunday as Slovakia’s Peter Sagan took the world title.
Swift finished just three seconds behind the Slovakian after six and a half gruelling hours of racing, with silver going to Australia’s Michael Matthews and bronze to Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania.
"I just gave it everything on that climb to follow the guys there and then I just didn't have anything left for that finish,” said Swift, who was out much of the season following a collarbone break at Tour de Yorkshire in May.
“Once we got onto the top and everyone started to sprint I just didn't have anything left.
"The team rode pretty well together I just wasted a lot of energy. I got caught up in a crash through one of the feeds and had to make a big effort to come back - that was about six laps to go."
"I had good legs but I missed it on that very last bit,” Swift continued. “Maybe I should have stayed in the group up that final climb instead of trying to follow guys like (Tom) Dumoulin and people like that. But I just followed the wheels and it is what it is."
The race saw action from the off, with an eight-man breakaway gaining five minutes early on. Home rider Taylor Phinney subsequently got away with four other riders before Ian Stannard made what looked to be a decisive move on lap 14, along with Bauke Mollema (Netherlands), Daniel Merino Fernandez (Spain), 2014 world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland), Andrey Amador (Costa Rica) and Elia Viviani (Italy).
The seven men carved out over thirty seconds before they were reeled in on the penultimate lap.
"It was quite obvious it was going to end up in a sprint so I just wanted to kind of break it up a bit earlier,” said Stannard, who had triumphed early in the season at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
"It was a strong group that went with Boonen and Kwiatkowski and myself. We all thought we had a bit of a chance and really committed. But the sprint teams really wanted it as well."
A few probing attacks came to nought before the race hit the course’s cobbled climb of Libby Hill for the last time, when one of the pre-race favourites, Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic) attacked, followed by John Degenkobf (Germany) and Greg van Avermaet (Belgium).
But it was Sagan’s final attack on 23rd Street that eventually stuck, the Slovakian powering away and hanging on over Governor’s Hill and onto the false flat to the finish, the bunch, containing Swift, coming within three seconds of denying Sagan the biggest victory of his career.
After Swift, Steve Cummings was the next Briton home in 31st, Stannard placing 55th, two places ahead of Adam Yates. Scott Thwaites was 101st while Luke Rowe, Andy Fenn and Alex Dowsett, who had worked tirelessly throughout, did not finish.