Samuel Sánchez was forced to reflect on an equally epic and painful day in the saddle on Saturday as he battled the elements to claim a morale-boosting fifth place on a mountainous 14th stage of the Vuelta a España.
The Euskaltel leader looked close to his best as he climbed with some of the top climbers in the world in the torrential rain and freezing cold that made the 155,7km leg from Baga to the top of the Collada de la Gallina such a memorable day - for the spectators anyway.
Only leader Vincenzo Nibali, main rival Chris Horner and Joaquin Rodríguez lasted the distance better than 'Samu', the Asturian rising to 11th overall as a result.
"That was one of the hardest days I've ever endured on a bike", he told reporters after finishing the first day in the Pyrenees. "Days like these don't come along that often, so I'll remember this stage being just as tough as it was as time passes. It was a very hard day, and on Sunday we've got some 220 kilometres ahead of us.
"What's important now is to recuperate from this very taxing effort".
Also showing improving form was Sánchez's fellow orange-clad climbers. Mikel Landa, Mike Nieve and Igor Antón came through for 9th, 12th and 17th respectively, securing Euskaltel its third team prize of the race.
- (1, Daniele Ratto (Cannondale), 4:24:00)
- 5, Samuel Sánchez, 4:19
- 9, Mikel Landa, 5:17
- 12, Mikel Nieve, 5:33
- 17, Igor Antón, 6:27
- 38, Egoi Martínez, 12:30
- 45, Juan José Oroz, 16:49
- 68, Gorka Verdugo, 22:19
- 69, Pablo Urtasun, s.t.
- 74, Jorge Azanza, 23:16