Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) has blamed a "leg problem" on his poor showing on the Tour de France 2019's first summit finish, La Planche des Belles Filles.
The Frenchman lost more than a minute to Geraint Thomas (Ineos), the highest-placed GC contender, finishing 2-53 back on stage winner Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida).
With his Ag2r La Mondiale team also losing over a minute in the team time trial on stage two, Bardet has seen his GC ambitions severely dented, if not lying in ruins, after less than a week of racing.
Speaking after stage six, where he had a mechanical as he crossed the finish line to add insult to injury, Bardet explained what went wrong: "I had a leg problem. I was not at the level today. I make it hard and bitter. I will try to understand what happened. I remain very motivated for this Tour.
"There are plenty of things to do. But first I have to understand what happened and why I couldn't keep up in the last kilometre."
The 28-year-old is yet to elaborate on the specifics of this leg problem, and will face the longest stage of this year's race, the 230km stage seven, the day after climbing La Planche des Belles Filles.
However, he has described feeling "shame" at letting his team-mates down, telling Le Parisien this was because he "was not at the level when everyone had worked so hard. I feel like I have been a spectator and have shown only that. The words are strong but I am very dissatisfied with myself."
Bardet is one of two Frenchman who carry the hopes of their nation at their home Grand Tour. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) put in a strong performance, living up to pre-race expectation of his form and finishing fifth on stage six, just two seconds behind Thomas.
Meanwhile, the French yellow jersey holder Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck - Quick-Step) lost the race lead to Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) despite a spirited fightback on La Planche des Belles Filles, finishing ahead of many pure climbers.
Ciccone's total of 14 bonus seconds, six from finishing second on the stage and eight from being the second rider to reach the summit of the Col des Chevrères, gave him enough time to overhaul Alaphilippe's lead, the Italian currently ahead of the Frenchman by just six seconds.
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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