Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins knows victory is within reach after he retained the yellow jersey on the final day in the Pyrenees.
Wiggins began the 143.5-kilometre route from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes in the maillot jaune for a 10th day and with a lead of two minutes five seconds over Team Sky colleague Chris Froome, with Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) 18 seconds further adrift.
But Wiggins, with able support from Froome, distanced Nibali on the finishing ascent as the Italian fell further behind to face a deficit of 2mins 41secs with three days' racing remaining.
Froome was seen imploring Wiggins to stay with him in the finale, with Nibali struggling.
"We were talking about Nibali," said Wiggins, who allowed himself to contemplate the top of the podium in Paris 6.5km from the end of the day's route.
"We knew he was on his limit. The moment we crossed the Peyresourde, I allowed myself to drift and that was the first time I thought maybe I've won the Tour today.
"All the way up that last climb my concentration had gone, everything about performance had gone.
"Chris was egging me on to take more time and I was in another world, really."
Friday's 222.5km 18th stage from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde features three classified climbs, but could end in a sprint finish.
Saturday's penultimate day 53.5km time-trial is the final opportunity to claim time and Wiggins' ability in that discipline suggests he is set to become the first Briton on the podium, with Froome poised to be the second, in the 99 editions of the Tour.
Wiggins added: "The minute we went over the Peyresourde, I pretty much knew that was the climbing done for the Tour and that was an incredible feeling.
"That's where everyone said I was at my weakest, in the mountains."
what do you think?
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Agreed, especially the other day when he got the rest to go slower to allow the guys who had been affected by the tacks to catch up, pity more sports don't have a Bradley Wiggins.