Just 24 hours before stage 13, Nairo Quintana had almost given up hope in his bid for the Tour de France overall victory. He had shipped two minutes to new race leader Fabio Aru (Astana), and almost doubled his time deficit to the maillot jaune. But the Movistar rider rose like a Phoenix from the ashes on the explosive stage to Foix on Friday, wiping out much of the time lost the previous day.
Quintana said after stage 12 that he just wanted to get his strength back, that the Giro d'Italia might have taken too much out of him, and that his attempt at the Giro-Tour double had not worked out very well.
But despite his defeat on the Peyresourde, Quintana had not given up, and with 64km still to race in stage 13 he attacked on the Col d'Agnes, and, at 4:01 down on the race lead, he had the advantage of escaping much of the scrutiny surrounding the three riders still within a minute of Aru.
His determined pursuit of the leading duo of Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) and Mikel Landa (Team Sky), aided by eventual stage winner Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb), showed flashes of the Quintana who won the Giro d'Italia in 2014, the Vuelta a Espana last year, and made himself such a nuisance to Chris Froome (Team Sky) at the 2015 Tour.
"We've always fought with heart and soul; we've always been up there," Quintana said. "You just don't lose your touch from one day to another. If you've got the skills, they show up at some point. We want to keep leaving our impression in this Tour."
Although he gained but one rung on the Tour de France GC ladder, the gradient has slackened for Quintana, who is now 2:07 down on Aru and 1:42 off Romain Bardet's podium spot. The Alps still loom large six days away, and the Colombian vows to keep fighting.
"As long as we have anything left into the tank, as long as I felt good, I'll always keep trying doing my best. I just hope to find these legs for another day in this race," he said.
"I'm back there with the top guys, I'm not losing confidence and I hope we can do like this for a couple of days, so we can go for it."