Unable to reproduce the same form that won him the Giro’s maglia rosa in May, the Tinkoff-Saxo captain is set to finish the Tour in fifth overall, a result that is all but confirmed after last night’s penultimate 110.5km stage took the peloton to the top of Alpe d’Huez.
Contador finished the stage in 16th position, 3min 30sec behind winner Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). He lost more time on the general classification but maintained his position overall.
“It was very hard, I particularly felt fatigued,” said Contador, who suffered from cramps in Stage 19 the day before, which had finished with the Hors Category climb up La Toussuire.
“It’s also true that the crash three days ago took its toll,” he said.
“I can say I’m satisfied because I did an acceptable Tour. I think that Quintana did a good race today but couldn’t take more time on Froome because his team rode in an intelligent way."
Standing across the finish line after the final GC showdown, Contador declared that it was the right decision to try for the Giro-Tour double victory, but also admitted that he will recalibrate his approach for the 2016 season.
“The truth is that this year, although the start of my season was quite calm, the main problem was the requirements of the Giro,” Contador said, reflecting on his 2015 ambitions.
“I think that this Giro was very hard from the beginning due to Astana’s performance and left me exhausted every day with long time trials and the final week, which was marked by extraordinary efforts.
“As a result, although my mind wanted to proceed my body needed more rest."
The Spaniard focused hard on recovery and rebuilding during the month between the end of the Giro and the start of the Tour but he has not shown the winning form that saw him comfortably take the overall victory in Italy.
By comparison, his 2015 Tour campaign has been one of grimacing and constant replanning in the face of ongoing setbacks and an inability to mount a winning attack.
“It’s true that there are riders that would dream of finishing fifth,” said Contador of his result in the Tour.
“For me that was not my objective but I’m glad that I tried. If I hadn’t tried then after my career I might have wondered whether I could have done the Giro-Tour double, and now I know.
“I don’t think it’s impossible to do the double but it’s really complicated because nobody has the experience on how to prepare it. However, I prefer having tried than being left with a desire to do it."
In addition to a revised plan of attack for the Tour de France, the Rio 2016 Olympic Games will also feature in Contador's game plan next year.
“For next year I plan my season similar to that of 2014: to enjoy the start of the season in top shape and to do the Tour and then the Olympics. I think that next year’s Olympics is hard and as such can adapt to my style, which doesn’t happen often,” he said.
While Contador couldn't deliver the result he hoped for in France, the Tinkoff-Saxo team will not come away from the Tour empty handed.
Peter Sagan leads the sprinters' classification by 104 points and is set to take home the green jersey for the fourth year in a row, barring a disaster on the Champs Elysees in Paris at the end of Stage 21.
Germany’s Eric Zabel holds the record for the most times winning the points classification, with six consecutive victories between 1996 and 2001.
Tonight's result will see Sagan join Sean Kelly in the Tour’s history books for the next-best effort. The Irishman won the jersey four times between 1982 and 1989.
Sagan said that working for Contador makes it even more special to head into Paris wearing green.
“Every year it’s different to fight for the green jersey and I think it’s more difficult to get the second, third and fourth green jersey.
“It made taking the green jersey even more worthwhile that I had to work for Alberto, while a sprinter like Greipel could focus on the sprints. I have enough points, but I still have to cross the line in Paris,” he said.