Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) managed to crack a smile and show some sign of optimism after finishing in the same time as Chris Froome (Team Sky) and other other overall contenders at the Tour de France on stage 11.
The Giro d’Italia winner was left on the ropes during the stage 10 mountain finish to La Pierre-Saint-Martin on Tuesday but looked much better as he held the pace on the Col du Tourmalet and then finished in the same time as Froome, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and a select group of riders after the 6.4km climb to Cauterets. Morale at Tinkoff-Saxo was also boosted by Rafal Majka winning the stage, Peter Sagan retaking the green points jersey and news from Italy that Ivan Basso had successfully undergone surgery as part of his treatment for testicular cancer.
The only bad news of the day was the abandon of loyal road captain Daniele Bennati, who crashed and suffered a micro fractured to the front of his right tibia.
“My legs are going better and that is something,” Contador told a small huddle of journalists after arriving at the Tinkoff-Saxo bus parked at the base of the climb.
“I knew that the Pyrenees would be difficult for me but in situations like this, you have to think ahead. It's amazing how hot it is and with the humidity it makes breathing much harder.
"The legs were better but it is a pity not to have the legs I had last year because those were really good. This is going to be a difficult and complicated Tour for me but I will try to do my best every day and we'll see. Froome is way above the others. From a tactical point of view we’ll try to do things, but he is the strongest.”
Contador praised Majka for winning in the Pyrenees after he joined the break of the day and then attacked alone on the Tourmalet.
“It was a tough day because we were keen that the peloton split early on to distance Greipel before the intermediate sprint. We kept pushing after that so that Sagan could go for the sprint and take back the green jersey, which he did.
“Rafal (Majka) had a chance in the break and he took it. The only bad news today was Bennati’s crash. It seems that things went well in Italy (for Ivan Basso’s testicular cancer surgery) and we have to be happy today. It’s nice that Rafal dedicated his win to Ivan.”