John Degenkolb survived the brutal pace over the hills at the end of stage 14 that left many of the top sprinters behind, but couldn't find enough strength remaining in his legs to also master the tough uphill finish.
"I died in the last 200 meters," said Degenkolb bluntly. "I was very motivated for this stage, so I tried really hard. I was up there until the end, I had a good position, but eventually I didn't have the legs to go until the top at that crazy speed."
Degenkolb was motivated for the 181-kilometer hilly parcours Saturday, a stage he had red-circled, and had great positioning coming into the tough one-kilometer climb to the line.
When the punchers hit out on the steep drag to the finish, Degenkolb gritted his teeth and followed their wicked pace, but when they shifted to yet another gear in the final meters, his legs balked.
"Of course I am disappointed not to have been able to fight for the victory. It is how it is. I don't think I did anything wrong; it was just a matter of not having the legs," he repeated.
"It has been a tough Tour for me until now. I believe the crash has caused a little setback for me and of course in the previous weeks, I worked hard for Alberto. But it is what it is, I will keep trying, the Tour is not over yet. We have to see how it goes after the rest day. The stage on Tuesday could be a good stage, so will the day before the TT, and Paris of course."
It was tricky finish for all, and when the dust settled time gaps had relegated Fabio Aru (Astana) to second place again, handing the defense of the yellow jersey back to Team Sky and Chris Froome.
Alberto Contador finished in 24th place and also lost 22 seconds.
"I was a bit far in the back, and yeah, there were some gaps. It's evident that I don't like to lose time. I started a little too far back, and I saw Aru which surprised me, but then I still could move up quite some places," explained Contador.
"The three-second rule doesn't apply today because it was an uphill finish. Tomorrow is another tough day. For me basically I want to get safely through the stage and then benefit from the rest day to recover as much as possible."
Unfortunately, Trek-Segfredo is down a man after Fabio Felline was forced to abandon during the stage, suffering from gastrointestinal problems.