While the battle for the yellow jersey rages on, lanterne rouge Kenny van Hummel (Skil-Shimano) faces his own individual war of attrition each day in the mountains as he tries to avoid being eliminated on time. The 26-year-old Dutchman finished today's stage 34:43 down on stage winner Mikel Astarloza but kept within the time limit and remains dead last, now 3:35:54 down on leader Alberto Contador.
A quick calculation shows that while Contador has averaged 40.567 kph for the Tour's 16 completed stages, van Hummel, making his Tour debut, has raced the same distance in an average of 38.516 kph.
During today's stage in the Alps, which crossed the highest point of the race, the Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard, at 2473 metres above sea level, van Hummel once again found himself on his own, dropped by the peloton.
"I was left by the bunch on the first climb today but I stayed at my own pace and kept on going. I had to take some pretty big risks on the descent to limit my losses but I can do that. I can go downhill very fast when I have to. I can gain two minutes back, no problem," Van Hummel said with a grin, after making the cut yet again.
"On the flat part after the first climb the terrain was up and down and of course the second climb was also hard, but I could hold the speed a little bit. Once I got to the top I knew that I would make it to the finish in time."
Van Hummel has received attention from the press in this year's Tour for his style of riding, but he's doing more than just surviving, often competing in the sprints, with several top 10 places to his name already. "I just do my job," van Hummel said when asked about the media attention he has received.
"There are some better climbers than me in the race," van Hummel joked. "I'm a sprinter and generally riders like me tend to struggle in the mountains. In the Pyrenees I had a few guys with me but they've all gone home now."
With another tough day in the Alps tomorrow with five categorised climbs, the Dutchman will have do it all over again but he'll go into it with one aim - to reach Paris. "I can hear all the fans cheering me as I ride and it's spurring me on.If I can make it tomorrow then maybe I can make it to Paris. I want to sprint on the Champs-Élysées."