TOULOUSE, France (VN) — Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) is battered, much of the skin missing from his left side, a bruise on his right temple where his helmet sandwiched between his skull and French tarmac somewhere in the midst of a simple, silly crash on stage 10. He’s in pain, a lot of it — “pain everywhere,” he said. He’s also in 11th overall in his first Tour de France.

That makes Barguil, just 23, the second-best French rider in the overall after stage 12, well ahead of the two young Frenchman who were expected to make runs at the top five, Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).

It’s a position he had to fight for. After escaping the first week of the race mostly unscathed, he hit the deck hard after running over a loose water bottle in the feed zone.

“I have pain everywhere. I crashed really hard here; it was really painful,” he told VeloNews prior to Thursday’s final Pyrenean stage, pointing to the right side of his helmet.

On Wednesday, a day after his crash, he was dropped on the Tourmalet, forced to chase down its fast backside. He closed over a minute from top to bottom, catching the group of GC favorites, narrowly avoiding catastrophe threatened by vagrant cows in the process. The ride kept him in the top-10 overall that day.

“I know the descent of the Tourmalet, so it was more easy for me. I had good feelings on my bike,” he said.

And the cows? “I saw them and went around them,” he said, smiling. Simple as that.

Barguil splashed onto pro cycling’s collective radar with a pair of stage wins at the Vuelta a España in 2013, when he was just 21. The eyes of a nation were on his thin shoulders as he entered his first Tour this month, even as he sought to downplay his general classification ambitions.

“The GC is not a goal for me,” he said. “Primarily I am here to learn and gain experience, as it is all new for me. After Paris we will make an assessment, and everything we achieve until then is extra, without pressure. When a GC position is not within reach anymore, I will go for a stage win together with my teammates, which is the main goal for the team.”

Barguil lost a further three minutes on the Plateau de Beille on Thursday, riding across the line in a group led by Cannondale-Garmin’s Andrew Talansky. He’s now 9:43 down — not quite enough to be allowed in a major breakaway, to switch to stage-hunting.

He’ll have to pick a side: stages or overall. Or perhaps the Alps will pick it for him.