Alberto Contador suffered at the hands of Chris Froome and Team Sky on the first mountain stage of this year's Tour de France. The Spaniard was simply unable to follow when Sky blew the race apart on stage eight's final climb of Ax 3 Domaines and lost 1:45 to Froome. He now sits seventh overall in the race, 1:51 off Froome's lead and with his chances of a third Tour de France title severely dented.
He barely spoke after crossing the line, only telling reports that, "we went up very hard, and I'm not in a good way at all."
Contador was paced by his teammate Roman Kreuziger after he lost contact with the leaders on the final ascent.
"I have to thank Kreuziger, but I need to eat well and recover for tomorrow," he said before vanishing into a Saxo-Tinkoff team vehicle.
Several hours later and back at the team hotel, Cyclingnews managed to reach the rider's press officer, who echoed Contador's words from earlier.
It was left to team boss Bjarne Riis to give a more elaborate explanation.
"We didn't expect it to happen, it's a real surprise. Perhaps Alberto had some breathing problems but I'm not sure about that."
However, Contador has been beaten several times by Froome already this year with the British rider taking wins at the Tour of Oman and the Dauphine at Contador's expense. Since that last win the Spaniard had been at pains to stress that he was not in top form but Saturday's performance was consistent – although the large deficit in time was still a surprise.
"The Tour's not over, the hardest part of the race are still to come.
"It's still too early to think about a change in strategy and Alberto is still our team leader. We're going to carry on with the same strategy as we planned."