The Liquigas-Doimo soigneur waited patiently in the shade for Ivan Basso to finish the stage in Pau.
Basso was not in the front group that finished 6:45 behind Pierrick Fédrigo (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) and included most of the overall contenders. He was not even in the first gruppetto, with teammates Daniel Oss and Francesco Bellotti, that finished 23:42 down.
Basso eventually finished the 199.5km stage in 111th place, 34:48 behind Fédrigo. The huge loss of time means that Basso is now 24th overall, 37:18 behind Alberto Contador.
The Giro d'Italia winner had been suffering with bronchitis since Monday afternoon and was weakened by the antibiotics the Liquigas-Doimo team doctor had given him to cure the problem and reduce a temperature. He had been targeting a Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double but now he just hopes to finish the Tour in Paris on Sunday.
When Basso crossed the line he did not stop when the soigneur held out a drink and did not want to talk to the Italian media that were also waiting for him. He rode past them all, with dried saliva on his lips and a blank, fatigued emptiness in his eyes.
He eventually spoke after recovering from over six difficult hours in the saddle. Like every other rider who had ridden the Giro d'Italia, his hopes of success at the Tour de France had faded during the third week of the Tour de France. Winning the now much tougher Giro and then an intense and constantly demanding Tour de France seems too much of a test for anyone.
"I'm really tired and worn out, it was an incredibly tough day,' Basso said. "I started the stage to honour the race because even my directeur sportif told me not to start. But I've never liked retiring and so I tried to hang on and stay in the Tour.
"This has been a tough Tour for me that always seemed to be uphill. Right from the start in Rotterdam it was more difficult that I think we all expected. This illness has made it almost impossible.
"Now I just want to think about the rest day and cancel this bad day from mind. I'm not used to being in the gruppetto when the big-name riders are racing hard up front. I can promise you it's not much fun."
Basso now just hopes to survive in the last mountain stage on Thursday and then reach Paris. Suddenly even just making to the Champs-Élysées will be a huge achievement for the Giro d'Italia winner.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.