Alberto Contador admitted he had no answer to Chris Froome after watching the Team Sky man strengthen his grip on the yellow jersey with a stunning victory on Mont Ventoux.
Contador did his best to stay with Froome on the feared ascent of the 'Beast of Provence' but when the British rider kicked away 7.2 kilometres from the summit he pulled clear of the Spaniard without even rising out of the saddle.
"I had enough trouble climbing at our pace as it was so 'chapeau' (hats off) to him," Contador said. "There's really not much more you can say. Froome is very strong."
By the time Contador reached the barren summit of the mountain, he had lost a further one minute 40 seconds to Froome, and remains third overall, four minutes and 25 seconds behind the leader and 11 seconds behind Belkin's Bauke Mollema.
"I've always been thinking about winning. That's the goal but every day there is a face to face situation (with Froome) he takes even more distance," Contador added.
"But we'll see. In the Tour you never know what will happen until Paris. Now I just think about recovering and enjoying the rest day. Going for second position is secondary."
Although Contador was able to take 69 seconds out of Froome's lead amid fierce crosswinds on the road to Saint-Amand-Montrond on Friday, Froome has had the upper hand in the mountains so far, taking the yellow jersey on the first Pyrenean state to Ax 3 Domaines last weekend and defending it valiantly against a series of counter-attacks a day later.
With a week in the Alps ahead before the finale to Paris, Contador knows the cards are stacked in Froome's favour but he remains hopeful.
"I don't think anyone can beat Froome uphill unless he has a bad day but let's see what happens in the Alps stages where several climbs may cause damage to his team," he said.
"The Tour is not over until Paris although the overall difference is already big."
Watch Froome conquer Mont Ventoux