Alberto Contador just didn't have it in him to stay with the favourites on the Galibier.
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Defending champion suffering fatigue, knee pain
After having made promising come-backs in the battle for general classification the last two days, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) today probably lost every chance of taking the yellow jersey in stage 18 of this year's race.
Like the other race favourites, the Spaniard did not respond to Andy Schleck's attack on the penultimate climb of the Izoard, but then got dropped from the group of yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler with 1.5km still to go on the final climb of the Galibier.
"It wasn't a good day for me, I just didn't have the strength in the last 10 kilometres," he said in the finish. "I felt a terrible weakness. The last few kilometres were really hard. I don't know if I just blew up - I was able to follow wheels but in the end, I decided to climb at my own rhythm."
Finally, Contador conceded 3:50 to stage winner Andy Schleck and another minute and a half on Voeckler. He is now 4:44 down on general classification and admitted that an overall victory was "practically impossible" for him at this point.
"It's going to be very difficult now to win the Tour for him, certainly," his team manager Bjarne Riis agreed. "Alberto wanted to try to attack, but he didn't have the legs today and he suffered from his knee."
In the beginning of the stage, the Spaniard had to get some anti-inflammatory treatment for his right knee from the race doctor.
Still, Contador was not overly upset with what happened today. "I am already used to experiencing a variety of situations and today was not the saddest day to me."
The Spaniard congratulated Andy Schleck on his stage-winning 60km raid and already turned the page. "Evans, too, did an incredible job and revealed himself. Now, it's important to recover and fill up our energy levels because we spent it all. We already have to think about tomorrow and rest."
Sports director Bradley McGee didn't exclude another bid by Contador to put his mark on this year's race after all. "There's still a few stages left of the Tour and we are here to be a part of it," he said. "Obviously, we have to accept today's defeat as true sportsmen. Andy (Schleck) took a big risk out there and he had the legs to back it up. But I really respect guys like Evans and Voeckler for their effort today. Alberto just didn't have it in him to keep up on the final kilometers."
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Tour de France