Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) was yet again consistent and strong on stage 18 to Galibier, finishing fourth, just behind Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek) and Cadel Evans (BMC) but acknowledged that his hard work and suffering had earned him little in terms of time.
The Italian moved up from eighth to sixth overall after Samuel Sanchez and Alberto Contador cracked. He is one place behind Italian rival Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) but both are 3:46 behind Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).
Knowing of his poor time trialing ability, Basso conceded that the yellow jersey is now out of reach but predicted that the last mountain stage to L'Alpe d'Huez on Friday could cause further changes to the GC standings.
"I'm happy with my performance because I finished with the best riders at the end of a really, really difficult stage, where some other riders suffered," Basso said from inside a team car after descending from the summit of the Galibier.
"We didn’t get a lot out of the stage in terms of a result but the important thing was to be up there today and show that I can be there when the road kicks up."
"I think I've got to admit I can't win the yellow jersey but I'm still very motivated for a place of honour. I've done as well as I possibly could and keep doing that in the final three stages."
Basso was not afraid to praise Andy Schleck on his courageous attack that won him the stage and lifted him to second overall, just 15 seconds from the yellow jersey.
"The strongest and most courageous rider won today and we can only praise Andy for his attack and stage win," Basso said graciously, before warning that the fatigue of the Galibier finish could leave some rider tired and cost them time on the slopes of L'Alpe d'Huez.
"We've got another tough day tomorrow. We'll be riding with 18 hard days racing in our legs and all the climbing from today as well. I think there can still be lots of changes in the overall classification."