Alberto Contador's Tour de France was dealt another, possibly fatal, blow as he lost yet more time in the general classification. Contador (Tinkoff) had managed to put a brief stop to the time loss during Friday's stage but was dropped on the final climb of stage 8, the Peyresourde, after a series of attacks with just over 16 kilometres remaining.
The Spaniard had been holding strong until then but fatigue took its toll. Once he was distanced, the gap between himself and the leaders quickly expanded. He eventually crossed the line 1:41 behind stage winner Chris Froome and is now more than three minutes behind the new yellow jersey. Following the stage, Contador was quickly whisked away to doping control, giving him an opportunity to collect his thoughts about the day's happenings.
When Contador reappeared, he seemed calm, stating that he'd known from the outset that he was likely to give more time away to his rivals. "I knew that it would be really quick and that it would be complicated to get through the day without any losses," Contador said. "It was a really fast day right from the start. It was a really tough day and really challenging for me. Today, I did all that I could.
"My body needs to rest. It is a pain after so many months of preparing for this race, and to arrive with good sensations, but we started the race on a bad footing. Cycling is like this and this time it has affected me."
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While Contador lost time, his teammate Roman Kreuziger was one of those who finished in a group just 13 seconds behind Froome. The Czech rider is sitting just outside the top 10 at 34 seconds down. Kreuziger had sparked some controversy earlier in the week by disobeying orders to stay with a struggling Contador. However, it seems that the team have now changed their mind with Contador's GC challenge looking all but done.
Tinkoff's Rafal Majka, who took control of the mountains classification on stage 8, hinted in an interview with Eurosport ahead of the stage that Kreuziger had been given equal status. After the finish, Contador confirmed that a decision had been made. "Yesterday and today we took the decision that he would dispute the general classification also," Contador said.
His DS, Stephen de Jongh, backed that up, saying that Contador had told Kreuziger to ride his own race. "He said to Roman that he can go for his own race because Roman needs a contract and Alberto says, 'If I feel very bad you can go for your own race.'"
For Contador, the next stage to Andorra will be about damage limitation and making it to the first rest day on Monday. Despite the ongoing struggle to come back from the injuries sustained in those early crashes, Contador is determined to fight on and does not give any credence to the idea of quitting.
"Never, it is not an option that I have thought about," he said. "I do not like to remember that I have had to abandon the Tour. If we are here it is to try and do something, but we will see. My body needs rest and this Sunday I expect a really hard day.
"Tomorrow is going to be very complicated day. It will be as tiring as today's stage. Tomorrow I have to try to make it through the day as best as I can and analyse everything during the rest day."