Of all the contenders you would have expected to lose time on the Tour’s first foray into the mountains, top of the list was battered Alberto Contador. After falls in the opening two stages, leaving him with road rash over most of his body, journalists were openly asking rival riders and managers whether they would look to take Tinkoff’s captain out of contention.
He is clearly out of sorts. On a molehill three days ago on the outskirts of Cherbourg, Contador lost 48 seconds. Yet on a sweltering day in the Massif Central, the Spaniard dealt with the pain manfully, sticking close to favourites Froome and Quintana.
The lights only went out over the final steep rise, two kilometres from Le Lioran. He was dropped again, ultimately losing 33 more seconds. Who knows how much he suffered, just to stay in contact to that point?
Surely his injuries, combined with the approaching Pyrenees, will put paid to his slim remaining chances of an eighth Grand Tour victory.
Yet his bravery is not in doubt. His body may be bruised, but Contador’s fighting spirit is unblemished.
Rouleur’s Top Banana is awarded after every 2016 Tour de France stage. It goes to an unsung hero who has caught the eye or deserves recognition for his efforts, rather than necessarily the stage winner or the most attacking rider.