By Julien Pretot
PARIS, July 26 (Reuters) - Alberto Contador was hoping to leave his mark with a rare Giro d'Italia/Tour de France double, but the Spaniard, fifth overall in Paris, rode through the sport's most prestigious race almost unnoticed.
Contador, arguably the best grand tour rider of his generation, was never a contender in the mountains, failing to sustain the pace of champion Chris Froome and runner-up Nairo Quintana.
The Tinkoff-Saxo rider never fully recovered from a punishing Giro, which he won after a tough battle with Astana riders Mikel Landa and Fabio Aru.
"The truth is that this year, the main problem was the requirements of the Giro," the 32-year-old said.
"I think that this Giro was very hard from the beginning due to Astana's performance and left me exhausted everyday with long time trials and the final week, which was marked by extraordinary efforts," Contador added.
"As a result, although my mind wanted to proceed my body needed more rest."
Contador stayed in contention in the opening block of racing, shielded by an experienced team but when the road went up, the 2007 and 2009 Tour champion could not follow.
He lost almost three minutes on the first mountain stage in the Pyrenees and with nothing left to lose, tried his luck with early attacks but he clearly did not have the legs.
Contador finished a massive nine minutes 48 seconds behind Froome.
"It's true that there are riders that would dream of finishing fifth. For me that was not my objective, but I'm glad that I tried," Contador said.
"If I hadn't tried, then after my career I might have wondered whether I could have done the Giro-Tour double and now I know.
"I don't think it's impossible to do the double, but it's really complicated because nobody has the experience on how to prepare it."
The last man to achieve the double was the late Marco Pantani in 1998, during a doping-tainted era.
"I prefer having tried than being left with a desire to do it," said Contador, who has seven grand tour titles to his name.
Contador is set to retire at the end of next year, when he will not attempt the Giro/Tour double, but will ride the Tour and the road race at the Olympics on a course that could favour the climbers. (Editing by Ed Osmond)