The Tour de France may be looking up into the Pyrenees, but there are slim signs of RadioShack's race having an upturn in fortunes after Andreas Klöden crashed again and lost time and Levi Leipheimer was dropped on the final climb to Luz-Ardiden on stage 12.
However, the experienced American took a positive outlook on a brutally tough stage that saw all but a handful of riders emerge with their yellow jersey ambitions intact.
Klöden crashed on the descent of the first major climb of this year's race and was unable to keep pace on the Tourmalet and although he briefly made contact with the peloton before the final climb, he would lose eight minutes on the stage.
Leipheimer fared better as he finished 1:25 off the pace of Samuel Sanchez on the stage and moved up to 17th overall.
"Leopard really took control on the Tourmalet, and I suffered on the climb, it was hard. I started to feel a little better at the bottom of the final climb, but I think Jens did one big pull in the last four kilometres. I started to run out of energy and I couldn't follow when the eight or 10 guys where still there," Leipheimer told Cyclingnews at the finish.
"Typically my form isn't good in the first day in the mountains, and I get better because I'm not a rider who has a lot of explosive attributes, and I'm not very explosive but I don't really slow down or get as tired. Hopefully the others will come down to my level and I'll fare better as the Tour goes on."
Leipheimer now finds himself with a dilemma: continue fighting for GC and aim to push into the top 10 or slip back and aim for a stage win. However, he believes that both goals are potentially within his hands if he races to his strengths.
"I'm in a tricky spot because I don't think it's a good idea to go in the early breakaway so the best thing to do is stay with the leaders and wait for the opportunity where they look at each other and I've got good legs. They won't think twice about giving me 20 or 30 seconds if I can get away in the Alps.
"The early break isn't my specialty so I'll just keep on doing my best and either move up into the top 10 or there'll be an opportunity with a small group in a finish and the favourites won't look at me."
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