Quintana drifted off the pace, almost imperceptibly, on the Peyresourde in what was a repeat of his defeat first at La Planche des Belles Filles and again, much more seriously, on the stage to Chambéry.
He crossed the line just ahead of Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), more than two minutes down on stage winner Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale). But if the Spaniard at least tried to attack on the Port de Bales before surrendering to the reality, Quintana has never really seemed to be much more than a spent force in this year's Tour.
Unlike Contador with his three crashes, the blame can be laid, perhaps, on Quintana's attempt to do the Giro-Tour double. This started with an impressive second place in Milan, as well as a spectacular stage win in the Blockhaus. But when Quintana quietly laid down his arms at 11 kilometres from the finish of stage 12 of the Tour, it became apparent that the result in July is clearly going to be a very different one to the Giro, and after three podium finishes in the Grand Boucle, quite possibly his worst result ever in the Tour.
"We've fought as far as we possibly could, but my strength isn't what I'd like it to be," Quintana explained. "When I got dropped, I thought I'd lose even more time, but finally I've held on as best I could and the time loss hasn't been so bad."
Looking forwards, Quintana's objectives are somewhat blurrier than Contador's, who has already said he will be looking for nothing more than stage wins.
"That would be good, but what I'm really wanting to do is get my strength back," Quintana said. "Until that happens, I can't really plan anything. It's true that I'm not in great shape right now, but the Tour is long, you never know."
As for his choice of racing the Giro and then the Tour, Quintana said, "It's the first time we've tried to do this, and clearly it's not worked out well. Sometimes you win bets and sometimes you lose and this time, we haven't won. But another year we'll do things better, building up basically for the Tour, and we'll start out this race in better shape.
"It could have been the Giro took too much out of me. It was a very hard race and we used up a lot of energy there. It's the first time I've ridden the Giro and the Tour. We hoped to get it right, but we didn't."
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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