Ag2r-La Mondiale's Jean-Christophe Peraud moved to the shade of a truck and then slumped to the floor after finishing in Vincenzo Nibali's slipstream after the 12km climb to Risoul, pouring water onto his legs, arms and head, before answering question about his performance during stage 14 at the Tour de France on Saturday.
The 37-year-old Frenchman seemed on the ropes during Friday's stage 13 climb to Chamrousse but fought back in today's cooler conditions and managed to hold Nibali's wheel when he attacked with four kilometres to go.
Peraud lost 40 seconds in the intense fight for a place on the podium in Chamrousse but took most of that back in Risoul and showed he is not ready to sacrifice his own chances for his younger and better-placed teammate Romain Bardet. Ag2r-La Mondaile is trying to win the best young rider's white jersey, finish a rider on the podium and beat French rival Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr). It also has an intense internal rivalry on its hands with Peraud and Bardet, adding a further twist to the French drama at this year's Tour de France.
Bardet is third overall, 4:50 down on Nibali but now only 13 seconds behind second-placed Valverde. Peraud is sixth overall, 1:18 behind his teammate. Peraud knows he has the advantage of the final 54km time trial, and so is rightly stating a claim to a podium place in Paris next Sunday.
"This was a 'mini-victoire' for me, I'm a bit happy. Staying on Nibali's wheel was an act of bravery," Peraud said as he breathed deep to recover from his effort.
"The goal was to try to attack with Romain in the finale. Nibali went before us and I went with him. Nibali proved he was the strongest but it was obviously a good move for my classification."
"It was hard to follow him but I put myself in his slipstream and so I saved a few watts. He's like everyone else, and so needed to save a little strength late on and so I tried my luck. I tried to go past him but he deserves his nickname of the shark, he didn't give anything away."
Peraud denied their was any tension with Bardet, insisting their combined team strategy was to attack fellow Frenchman and rival Pinot.
"Thibaut suffers on the fast descent. He's French but that's racing. We had to try to break him there because he's very strong on the climbs," he explained.
"It was in the heat of the moment of the descent, we just went a bit crazy. I wasn't sure it was he best strategy but it worked pretty well. It didn't come off but it was worth trying for sure."
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