By Martyn Herman
SERRE-CHEVALIER, France (Reuters) - Alberto Contador gave a glimpse of the old attacking style he hoped would allow him to challenge for overall victory in the Tour de France on Wednesday but the Spaniard's audacious attacks ultimately counted for nothing.
The sight of the 34-year-old leading the charge on the day's first big climb, the Croix-de-Fer, then again going wheel for wheel for the lead on the fearsome Galibier climb towards the end of stage 17 was a welcome sight for his fans.
But try as he might, the double Tour champion could not respond when surprise stage winner Primoz Roglic accelerated away and he trailed home in eighth place, behind the likes of race leader Chris Froome and Frenchman Romain Bardet.
Contador was already too far behind the leaders to contend for the yellow jersey but clearly had planned to leave his mark on the race with one big stage victory.
Unless El Pistolero has something up his sleeve for Thursday's iconic Col de l'Izoard ascent, the Trek-Segafredo rider looks like he will be going home disappointed.
"It's a shame. We had some riders out in the breakaway and they had more than five minutes. We started the climb and I thought that I would try to do something today," he said.
"I was feeling strong and my legs were good. It was like doing a time trial and I think that I really paid for my efforts on la Croix-de-Fer when we got to the last part of Galibier.
"I know that I couldn't win the stage but it was a beautiful stage. It is a shame because I feel good and that motivates me, but the chances left are not many," he said.
Former Tour winner Greg LeMond, commentating for Eurosport on what could be Contador's Tour de France swansong, said the years may have finally caught up with him.
"He's got he mindset, but unfortunately he does not have the legs anymore," the American told Reuters.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Alison Williams)