Alberto Contador finished in eighth place in the steep uphill finish of stage six at Paris-Nice Friday, losing a few more seconds to some rivals in the first of three successive stages in the mountains.
"I did not feel great today," admitted Contador. "I don't know why. When we passed the [finish] climb for the first time, the feeling was not the best, and so I said to myself 'okay, today I need to pass as best as I can.' In the finale, I just tried to follow the wheels."
Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) soloed to the win after attacking at the top of the penultimate climb with just over 19 kilometers remaining. He pushed his lead to 45 seconds ahead of the last ascent and crossed the line with 17 seconds to spare.
A group of 16 arrived at the bottom of the final 1.2-kilometer climb, where an ornery Richie Porte (BMC) put in a few digs before Sergio Henao (Sky) countered and opened a gap. Henao crossed the line in second place, grabbing the time bonus and adding some valuable time on his rivals.
Contador arrived with a small group 32 seconds after Yates, and 15 seconds behind Henao, suffering a little more damage to his GC hopes but saving what could have easily ended in disaster.
"Of course, today we lost again some very important seconds to some riders, and it will make it difficult to fight for the [overall] victory," added Contador. "You never know why you have this bad feeling. Now what is important is to eat well, rest well and recover for tomorrow. Tomorrow is a very different stage, and it will be a hard day."
Alberto Contador attacks.
There was no indication Contador was not at 100 percent on the third-to-last climb when he made one of his trademark early attacks. Although he was tagged back quickly, it did pare back the size of the peloton.
"The first attack I wanted to make it hard, so I tried to move a little," explained Contador. "I wanted to make it as hard as possible for the leader, but the climb was not so hard, and it was difficult to put time to the group, so I stopped. But it was good because it made the group smaller."
Jarlinson Pantano made the selection and sheltered Contador for most of the penultimate eight-kilometer climb. Pantano lost contact to the decimated group one kilometer from the top, but provided vital support, mentally and physically - a good omen for the bigger races to come.