Anyone who watched Levi Leipheimer attack Empire Pass in Sunday's final stage of the Tour of Utah naturally wondered if he wanted that demanding climb to last even longer, giving him a chance to claim an improbable overall victory.
Uh, that would be anyone who was not riding the last leg of a six-day competition that covered 545 miles and climbed nearly 38,500 feet over a relentless series of mountain passes.
As for the two-time defending champion, Empire Pass and this course of his own creation was all he wanted. More pain? Not exactly among his wishes at that point.
"No, no," he said. "I was suffering; I was suffering a lot," he said.
When he glimpsed the sign marking 5 kilometers remaining in the stage, in fact, Leipheimer thought, "What did I do to myself?"
Other riders may have muttered even stronger sentiments about the Rowland Hall-St. Mark's School graduate and what his course was doing to them. Let's just say they were very happy to finish the Tour of Utah, which markets itself as "America's Toughest Stage Race."
That was especially true of champion Johann Tschopp, who wore the yellow jersey Sunday and stayed ahead of his biggest competitors and close enough to Leipheimer to earn the victory.
"I did what I needed to do," Tschopp said.
Another win for Leipheimer would have required a superhuman effort. Wouldn't you know, he showed signs of delivering it. He started Stage 6 more than 2 minutes behind Tschopp in the standings and at one point late in the race had made up more than half of that gap.
That's when the 6-mile climb from Midway featuring a 20-percent gradient ended, though, and it's physically possible to go only so fast on the descent into Park City. Leipheimer celebrated his stage victory by raising both fists and pounding his chest as he crossed the finish line on Main Street, clearly thrilled to have salvaged something from a difficult week.
His hopes of repeating as the overall champion basically ended after Wednesday's team time trial at the Miller Motorsports Park, but he was determined to grab a stage victory and continue his comeback from a broken leg in April.
In the end, he gained 49 seconds on Tschopp in the final stage and finished sixth overall, having started the last day in 16th place.
Leipheimer responded well to the pressure he felt from having recommended Sunday's course as Tour of Utah venue. Leipheimer stayed in Utah to train after his triumph last August and Tweeted about discovering Empire Pass.
The idea "started growing legs from there," said Tour of Utah president Steve Miller. "It was underneath our noses the entire time, and we never thought to put it in the race."
Leipheimer has ridden the course maybe 20 times, always picturing himself in Sunday's position out in front, pumping toward the finish line.
So this arduous, 76.7-mile stage, following Saturday's 101-mile race to the tour's traditional finish at Snowbird, made for quite a weekend in the mountains. Leipheimer loved it. "Suffering like this is actually not a bad thing," he said.
Miller liked how the last two stages created separation at the end, following sprints to the finish in earlier races of the eighth Tour of Utah. "I don't think that we could have written a better script for ourselves," he said.
Only having Leipheimer start the last stage a little closer to the leader could have made Sunday more intriguing. Yet even after giving away his title, Levi liked the ending.