Alberto Contador's dream Grand Tour farewell may not happen judging by the third stage to Andorra on Monday where he lost 2-33 minutes to his rivals.
The 34-year-old Spaniard of team Trek-Segafredo had planned to race on through the Giro d'Italia in 2018 but after a disappointing Tour de France, he announced the Vuelta a España, where he already won three times, would be his last race.
"I had very bad sensations, also climbing La Rabassa [the second to last climb], I saw it already," Contador said.
"I don't know what happen to me but I felt super, super weak. Even when we went at a relatively calm pace, it was difficult to be there.
"I hope that is only a bad day, maybe because the lack of competition. The most important thing now is to recover and try to find the reason of this performance."
His long-time helper Jesús Hernández dropped back, but could not pull a suffering Contador back into the action. Peter Stetina helped too, but Contador told them to think for themselves.
It could be a bad sign for the winner of the 2008, 2012 and 2014 Vuelta. He suffered as well in the Tour and changed his tactics to try to win a stage.
"Now the most important thing is to know why I had so bad day before deciding the tactics going ahead," added Contador.
"I want to enjoy this Vuelta in any case. I'm the most relaxed in my whole career in this Vuelta and I enjoying it the most I can. For sure I want to be ahead, I couldn't today, but I'll try on next days."
Contador crashed in last year's Vuelta and could not compete for the overall. However, his gutsy attack on the Formigal stage pulled along Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and isolated Froome. The move helped Quintana win the race overall ahead of Froome.
"I will not abandon this race and I will stay here to enjoy it," Contador said. "Yes, this is a huge blow, but I hope to bounce back."
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1