It sounds a bit like the 2016(?) Dauphine when the rumour about Contador was that he was avoiding going into the red in any way, as he got dropped on final climb after final climb. Then they got to the Tour and it turned out he just didn't have the legs.It sounds a bit conspiratorial.
I don't think I buy it but I won't completely discard it either.
Contador finished the 2016 Dauphine in 5th on GC, 35 seconds behind the winner, Froome.