Alberto Contador was tired, dejected and yet proud after stage 17 of the Tour de France to Serre Chevalier. He was award the Prix de la Combatitive for going on attack on the Alpine stage but it was of little reward for his huge effort and of little consolation for his difficult and disappointing Tour de France.
Contador moved up to ninth overall and showed he is still a fighter but he was clearly tired as he spoke about his attack and eventual eighth place on the stage over the Col du Galibier and then down to Serre Chevalier. His voice was deep, rough ands full of pain and disappointment.
He had come to the Tour de France to challenge for victory, probably for one last time. Crashes, misfortune and a distinct lack of the ability to stay with the overall contenders quickly forced him into a lesser role, even if he still dreams of being the star of the show.
No longer an overall threat after losing two minutes on stage 12 to Peyragudes, the Trek-Segafredo leader finished third in Foix after being in the break of the day. This time Contador jumped across to the early break of the day that included teammates Michael Gogl, Jarlinson Pantano, and Bauke Mollema. He had to make a huge effort on the Col de la Croix de Fer to join the move. He dropped Nairo Quintana (Movistar) who struggled to hold the pace, but went deep and was presented with the bill on the punishing Col du Galibier. Contador was unable to go after Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) when he motored away and held off everyone to become the first Slovenian rider to win a stage at the Tour de France.
"I couldn't win, that was the objective, but this is sport. Today there were too many kilometres for me to overcome alone. If I had been part of the first breakaway, I would have had no problems, but to catch the break at kilometre 70, cost me lots of options," Contador argued.
"It was a tremendous effort on Croix de Fer with the break at five minutes; I pedal strongly. I told Nairo to come but he couldn't, and then on the Galibier, with all many attacks, I paid for it."
While Roglic crested the Col du Galibier alone and went on to win the stage, Contador was cruelly caught by the overall contender and then dropped. He finished eighth at 1:44.
"I tried to save energy, but there were many attacks, and although I could top the final climb with the favourites group, I couldn't fight for the victory. It's a pity, because there are not many opportunities left. I feel well, and I am eager, but this Tour has been very problematic for me," he said.
Despite looking tired and dejected, Contador's inner pride also burned bright.
He has played down reports that he will target the Giro d'Italia in 2018, meaning this is his last ever Tour de France, after ten starts and two overall victories. However he has arguably defined his career in this year's race despite struggling and suffering so much.
"I want people to remember me as a rider who tried things, who was courageous," Contador said proudly.
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