Geraint Thomas bore his burden stoically, over four category climbs and roads that twisted and contorted like Munch's Scream, but the repeat prescription visits to the Team Sky doctor during Monday's third stage offered a more reliable truth.
So far the Welshman's fractured hip – sustained in Saturday's crash, but revealed by an MRI scan only on Sunday night – has refused to break him, although he needed help to lift his leg over his bike's crossbar before the start. Tuesday's team time trial, however, might.
"I have not come here just to do a lap of France," said Thomas at the finish. "It felt a lot better today than yesterday and it felt a lot better at the end than it did at the start."
The odds are stacked against him. Tuesday is team trial day, a 25km fast and furious blast around Nice. Team Sky will probably ride it in 27 or 28 minutes. Thomas is likely to be dropped early. If that happens he will have to push on alone and finish within 10% of the team's time or he will be out.
Team Sky's general manager, Sir Dave Brailsford, took no pleasure in reminding Thomas of the brutal realities of life on the road. There would be no help or favours.
"In my opinion he won't be part of that team time trial in terms of really being able to contribute," said Brailsford. "I just think it's unreasonable to expect that in view of his injury. So we'll have to deal with that."
Or rather Thomas will. Brailsford did, however, pay tribute to his rider's capacity to absorb pain and cling on during a day when Cofidis's Yoann Bagot and Astana's Andrey Kashechkin had their race numbers ripped off their backs.
"The determination and level of suffering required to ride on a course like this, with its twists and turns where you can never get into any kind of rhythm, was really considerable," he said. "He suffered an awful, awful lot – he deserves every bit of recognition and support for his suffering."
Would he be able to make it to Paris? "Who knows, we'll have to wait and see," said Brailsford with a shrug. "Physically he's in fantastic shape. It's a question of how much he can cope with the pain."
Thomas, a double Olympic gold medallist in the team pursuit in 2008 and 2012, had a pursuit of a far more torturous kind before finishing in the group 9min 15sec back.
"Sunday was one of the worst days I've ever had on a bike and I have never had this difficulty getting going at the start of a day before," he said . "But the experts said it's not going to get any worse so I'm going to give it a few days and see if the pain comes down."
At his side was Chris Froome, who chipped in: "He's Welsh. He'll survive."
Froome, incidentally, finished safely in the peloton and remains one second down on the yellow jersey of Jan Bakelants. He was full of praise for Thomas, saying: "After 100km today he came up to the front of us and said: "Yeah, c'mon!" That made us all smile. He's got fighting spirit."
The third stage was won by the Australian Simon Gerrans, who held off Peter Sagan in a bunch finish. Gerrans rides for Orica-GreenEdge whose driver got stuck beneath the finish arch of the first stage. This time there was no anguish, only smiles.
Sagan missed out on the stage by millimetres but there was an immediate compensation: the favourite for the green jersey in Paris will wear it as early as Nice.
There have been rumours that Mark Cavendish is struggling with a bronchial infection and he endured another tough day, finishing way back with Thomas. The Manxman will have many other days to shine on this Tour. One just hopes Thomas will too.
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