Chris Froome admitted he was "really struggling" at the end of stage 11's time trial, but was delighted to extend his overall lead of the Tour de France with a second-placed finish.
The Team Sky leader stopped the clock 12 seconds slower than Tony Martin, the world champion in the discipline, but was more than two minutes quicker than general classification rivals Alejandro Valverde and Alberto Contador.
Froome had been on course to win the stage after setting the fastest times at both of the intermediate checkpoints, before wilting in the closing stages.
Nevertheless, he has now extended his overall lead on second-placed Valverde to 3min 25sec.
"Tony did a fantastic ride to win the stage, and he really deserves that," the Briton said. "As world champion, time trial is his speciality.
"I am really happy with second place and having extended my advantage on the other big GC rivals.
"There was a really strong headwind. In the last couple of kilometres I was really struggling to turn my legs. I was just trying to get to the finish.
"That gives me a good buffer going into the next few days. I think I am going to need every second I can get the way these guys are riding."
Martin underlined his status as the world's best time-triallist, but admitted he was not expecting Froome to present such a stern challenge.
'Terrible last 30 minutes'
The German rider had led for more than four hours and said Froome's charge made the latter stages of that wait a gruelling experience.
"I had a terrible last 30 minutes," he said. "I didn't expect that he [Froome] would come so close.
"I am really happy he lost some seconds in the final kilometres. At the end it doesn't matter if you win it by one second or one minute.
"At the beginning, I had to spend one hour to change all the bandages. I had pain in the night, so it was hard for me to recover."