Marseille - Romain Bardet revealed he'd been suffering from "fragile" health as he fought bravely to hold onto a podium finish at the Tour de France on Saturday.
Bardet, 26, was struggling from the word go in the 22.5km time-trial around Marseille and having started the day just 23 seconds behind leader Chris Froome in second place, he ended it hanging onto third by just one second from Mikel Landa, and 2:20 behind Froome.
"I'm at my limit, I'm tired, I gave everything. It's the Tour de France, there are 21 stages, some days when you feel good and other days you don't," said the Frenchman, who was 52nd on the stage, some 2:02 behind winner Maciej Bodnar of Poland.
"Today I really didn't feel good. For the last few days I haven't been in good health and today I paid for it in cash.
"I fought to the end but it's true that it was tough, I quickly saw that I wasn't at the races, I did the time-trial with my head today.
"I'm starting to get to know my body really well and I know when I'm good and when I'm not.
"I'm getting tired. The day after the Izoard (stage 18) I could feel that my immune system was fragile. This morning I didn't feel good when I woke up."
Rather than fulfilling the dreams of a nation and battling to overhaul Froome, Bardet not only dropped below Rigoberto Uran but was simply hanging on grimly for third, which he said was success in itself, despite having finished runner-up to Froome last year.
"I knew I couldn't let my head go down in the money-time. I'm delighted to have given it everything and there's a little bit of success in having saved a podium place," he said.