Alberto Contador said he was “sorry” to see Chris Froome abandon the Tour de France and admitted he was relieved not to follow the Briton in crashing out of the race.
Froome was forced to quit the Tour after falling twice on a rain-drenched fifth stage containing 13km of cobbles.
Contador managed to get to the finish line without incident, but struggled over the "pave" as he fought to keep his bike upright in dreadful conditions.
His slow pace came at a cost, as race leader Vicenzo Nibali stretched his lead over the Spaniard to 2min 37sec by finishing third on the day, but Contador was happy to see the bigger picture.
Rather lose time
“I made it through the day without crashing, which is perhaps the most important thing,” he said. “I would rather lose a minute than have a crash and the Tour has only closed its first of many chapters.”
Contador and Froome went into the race as heavy favourites and the Tinkoff-Saxo rider is sad a keenly anticipated battle between the pair in the mountains will now not take place.
“This is what could be expected from a stage like this with the cobblestones,” he added. “And it could have been me. It’s a nice show for the home viewers but it’s a pretty big risk for the riders.
“Froome was the number-one favorite to get the victory and is now out of the race. Of course I will feel sorry for him because preparing for the Tour needs months of physical and psychological work and a series of sacrifices on the home front.
“I’m sorry for him and for the race because it would have been a great spectacle in the mountains.”
Contador must now concentrate his efforts on reducing his deficit to Nibali, who produced a magnificent display on the cobbles to strengthen his grip on the yellow jersey.
“It was a very difficult day and I lost a lot of time to Nibali who was in the right spot in the second section where everything fell apart,” Contador added.
“Of course I wish I were in front of him but seeing how the situation was on the cobbles today, I didn’t want to take more risk than necessary.”