Nairo Quintana (Movistar) climbed the general classification on stage 9 of the Tour de France but his hopes of victory, and perhaps a podium place, all but went up in smoke during the race's queen stage.
Quintana got into trouble on the Mont du Chat as the general classification contenders traded blows on the hors categorie ascent. With 26 kilometres still to run, the group of favourites slid away from Quintana's grasp. He would eventually cross the line 1:15 down, with Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors), who crashed on the descent of the Mont du Chat with Richie Porte (BMC Racing).
The Colombian is now eighth overall, moving up one position in the standings, but he's now over two minutes behind the maillot jaune, and almost 1:30 behind the final podium spot. Quintana admitted that targeting the Giro d'Italia earlier this season has also taken its toll.
"We lacked some bit of energy we really needed. We fought all we could, but we lost more time. It's always difficult to reach optimal form when you chase the goals we went for this year," Quintana said outside the team bus in Chambery.
All things considered, Quintana says that he's happy just to still be in the race after narrowly avoiding the incident that took out Geraint Thomas (Team Sky). Quintana also got tangled with Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) a few kilometres later but once again managed not to go down.
"Fortunately, I could get through a really horrible fall. I don't know how I managed to avoid it. You'd have to feel so happy only considering that. It could have been worse; I could have been going home."
Like many on the day, Quintana is likely to spend much of the rest day considering his options. There are still some mountains to come, but they are quickly reducing with four big mountain stages left, and only two of those summit finishes. Quintana must also consider the time trial on the penultimate day in Marseille, but he is not yet ready to give up on his overall ambitions.
"Apart from this, we must carry on and keep fighting, and see how we feel in the next week," he said. "We know we're not as strong as we wanted, but that's human nature, you just don't feel as you want when you wish.
"You've got to know how to get through the most difficult moments. We will go step by step and think calmly about what's to come, to see if we can find some new way to refocus our race. It isn't easy, but we will keep fighting, and we will do as much as we can."
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