The Tinkoff team tried to quickly focus on other goals at the Tour de France after Alberto Contador abandoned during stage 9 to Andorra Arcalis but the loss of their charismatic team leader left everyone on the Russian team stunned and somewhat lost.
Team owner Oleg Tinkov witnessed Contador abandon the Tour de France for a second time after also being present at the 2014 race when Contador crashed hard in the Vosges and was forced to retire due to a micro fracture in his tibia. This was the Russian businessman’s final shot at winning the biggest race in professional cycling, but his chance seems to have gone.
"It's bad news. It was my last attempt to win the Tour. It's a real shame," he said after the stage, as Contador was driven to the Tinkoff team hotel in Andorra.
"It was not a surprise to me, because I am in the team and we knew that Alberto was not doing well. Our team didn't have a good last five days. Our captain was struggling and we had to be around him. It was not an easy time, even though Peter was in yellow, we had to manage two goals: to look after Alberto and still manage to keep the yellow jersey. Now, it's kind of a relief, because Alberto is going home to prepare for the Vuelta.
"The race goes on and we are going to fight for the mountain jersey and the green jersey and to try to win some stages. Rafal Majka is a fighter. He is not feeling well because he's been in two consecutive breakaways, but he was good today. I hope he can fight for the mountain jersey now."
Months of preparation go to waste
Tinkoff directeur sportif Sean Yates and Steven De Jongh saw Contador abandon mid-way during the stage, seeing months of hard work and preparation go in vain.
"We could see from his performance numbers that he was well off what he can produce when he's fit and healthy. It was like pushing shit up hill. We obviously always hope for the best and try and keep the rider’s moral up but in the end it wasn't to be.
"We knew that Alberto been suffering for days and ultimately it took its toll. He was recovering from his crash injuries but yesterday was a hard day with the heat, 4500m of climbing. He was still trying to perform but his body clearly didn’t want to know anymore. He woke up with a fever this morning and that's a consequence oh him trying so hard."
Yates also struggled to comprehend Contador's final attack early during the stage. The move proved to be the decisive blow for the Spaniard's chances of survival.
"That really emptied his tank, just like last year at the Tour de France when he surviving on courage," Yates explained. “If it'd been the last two day of the Tour, he would have continued. Here it was only going to go from bad to worse. Purely for his health, it was better and wise to stop now.”
Tinkoff to now focus on green and polka dot jerseys
Yates indicated that Contador would bounce back and perhaps now target the Olympic road race in the Spanish squad and then the Vuelta a Espana. Contador is expected to sign a contract with the Trek-Segafredo team in the coming days and ride for the US-registered team in 2017, with an option for 2018. With the Tinkoff team set to close at the end of 2016, Contador will likely want to try to save his year by targeting the final Grand Tour of the season.
"He's got objectives up the road which he can focus on and do well in," Yates said. "He needs to recover. Then when his wounds heal, he should be okay and back on tack and train gently."
Yates quickly tried to focus on the goals Tinkoff can still achieve with Peter Sagan and Rafal Majka.
"It's a great disappointment to lose Alberto because we came here to win the Tour. But our leader is out and now we can only try to our hit our other goals," Yates said.
"Peter is on track for green and took 20 points back today. We've also got a shot for the polka-dot jersey with Rafa Majka. We've also got Roman Kreuziger, who is well placed overall."