Alexandre Vinokourov shrugged off aches, pains and sleepless nights to take aim at Tuesday's crucial ninth stage of the Tour de France.
Vinokourov and Astana teammate Andreas Kloden used Monday's rest day to ride for more than two and a half hours on the daunting Col d'Iseran which presents the first challenge on Tuesday.
"We rode for two and half hours almost to the summit," said Vinokourov, who is 22nd overall in the race standings at 5min 23sec behind leader Michael Rasmussen of Denmark.
"It's good to get to know a climb before the race."
The Kazakh star, who started the race as one of the favourites for the yellow jersey, has endured a dramatic Tour so far suffering injuries to both knees in a fall on the fifth stage.
He admitted on Monday that he is doing his best to forget about the searing pain, and the 30 stitches he needed, as he tries to keep his campaign on track.
"My left knee is better but the scar on the right knee is open. However, when you are on the bike and get into the rhythm of the race, you forget about the pain.
"I started the Tour in good shape but obviously it takes a lot of energy to recover from a fall like that. I've had little sleep in the last few nights and my muscles have hurt."
Teammate Kloden, who also suffered a fall on the fifth stage and injured his tailbone, has also been missing out on his sleep as the treatment required to tend his pain often lasts until midnight.
© AFP 2007