The Spaniard headed home from the Tour de France, not as the winner, as he is so accustomed to, but in fifth place overall, 3:57 behind Cadel Evans (BMC). It is his worst Grand Tour result since finishing 31st in his debut at the Tour de France in 2005, when he was just a 22-year-old.
It was always going to be tough for the Spaniard to win his fourth Tour de France. He was affected by crashes and showed that even he is not superhuman and can have a bad day.
He raced the Tour de France with the fatigue of the Giro d'Italia in his legs and the outcome of his Court of Arbitration doping hearing weighing on his mind.
Three early crashes turned his Tour into a handicap race and then he lost any chance of a podium finish when he cracked dramatically on the Galibier. He then attacked early the very next day but failed to pull back significant time and win at Alpe d'Huez. However it was a sign of his fighting spirit and determination.
He faces a three-day hearing in front of the Court of Arbitration judges between August 1-3 and will know if he faces a ban for a doping by the end of August. Yet he intends to return to try and win the Tour de France in 2012, without riding the Giro d'Italia.
"I think I still had a good Tour considering the circumstances," he told L'Equipe before heading home.
"I don't know what will happen next year but I'll be coming back to try and win again. That's the only goal in my mind and so that confirms that ends any question about doing the Giro."
He made it clear he will not ride the Vuelta Espana that begins on August 20.
"I'm only thinking about going to the beach," he joked.
"It's pretty obvious that I've no intention of doing the Vuelta. The season has been long and complicated. I need to rest."