By Gregor Brown in Saint Étienne
Spaniard Carlos Barredo came tantalisingly close to winning stage 18 and salvaging some pride for the winless Quick Step squad, but the team's poor run of results continued as he was beaten in a two-man sprint by Columbia's Marcus Burghardt. The Belgian team is undoubtedly missing superstar Tom Boonen, but Barredo himself has been suffering since the Grand Départ in Brittany nearly three weeks ago where he caught the flu.
"I still don't feel good today," he said after finishing second to Burghardt in Saint Étienne. "We had to have grit today and the only chance was an escape. I gave all the grit I had.
"Today, I went a little better, but even from the beginning, it was not Quick Step's Tour or a Tour for me. I tried hard today, the whole team tried. We closed the first gap of seven riders who went free when there was not anyone leading the group. I was able to have my chance and I went."
The escape was formed when Barredo went on the offensive at kilometre 68. The move narrowed down to him and Burghardt and the pair rode together for 110 kilometres before Barredo launched the first attack.
"I thought the finale was going to be a little tougher than it was," he said. "It was not easy for two riders who had been in the escape all day. Burghardt is faster than I am, but I tried many times. I knew that he was faster in the sprint. After I tried my attacks, I stayed on his wheel to try for the sprint."
Barredo seemed almost a little too anxious to give his team a win and send a message home to Spain. He continued to launch attacks on his rival - one of which came while Burghardt was zipping up his jersey. "I did not want to want to arrive in the sprint with him," he said. "For all the problems I had in this Tour, I did not want to lose this chance by waiting for the finale."
Barredo explained that he wanted to give a special gift to his father, who has been suffering with heart problems. "This was very important for me," he said.