Chris Froome of Team Sky is poised to win the Tour de France for the second time in three years, but Movistar's Nairo Quintana, 2 minutes 38 seconds behind this morning, pushed him all the way up the Alpe d'Huez on the penultimate stage of the race, won by FDJ.fr's Thibaut Pinot.
Ahead of tomorrow's processional stage into Paris, Froome leads the race by 1 minute 12 seconds from Quintana, with Alejandro Valverde completing the podium.
Movistar had signalled their intention to go on the attack ahead of today's 110.5km stage from Modane-Valfrejus and so it proved, with Valverde, third overall, launching an assault on the Col de la Croix de Fer before Quintana's attack on the Alpe d'Huez.
The Colombian, who will win the white jersey of best young rider just as he did in 2013 when he was runner-up to Frome, finished around 20 seconds behind Pinot and the best part of a minute ahead of Froome, who had been marshalled up that final climb by Wouter Poels and Richie Porte.
After Christophe Riblon's victory in 2013 and Pierre Rolland's win in 2011, it's the the third successive Tour de France stage victory at Alpe d'Huez by a French rider - those previous two salvaging national pride as the first win by a home rider during the respective editions of the race.
Chris Froome of Team Sky, set to win his second Tour de France and also winner of the mountains classification
There have been so many emotions going through my mind up to that last climb of the Tour de France. I've always had team-mates with me. The job they've done has saved my yellow jersey. We were obviously trying to control Nairo Quintana.
All the weeks of training and time away from my wife and my family came to my head and helped me pushing till the end.
Today's stage was only 110km long but it felt like riding flat out for 300km. It's unreal. Winning the Tour again gives me an unbelievable feeling. Each Tour is different in its own way.
Nairo Quintana of Movistar, second overall and top of the best young rider's classification
We had a strategy. We thought about attacking up to the col de la Croix-de-Fer but it didn't work out. Plan B was to do it at L'Alpe d'Huez and we took some time [over Chris Froome] but not enough.
I saw the yellow jersey was far behind but he fought till the end to keep the lead. He and his team defended very well. I was only looking for the overall victory, not for the stage win.
I've given everything I had in the past two stages but it didn't work out. I'm satisfied because we have never stopped trying to win the Tour. I still keep my yellow dream but for the coming years.
Stage winner Thibaut Pinot of FDJ.fr
The atmosphere up to L'Alpe Huez was impressive. I've dropped Ryder Hesjedal at the Dutch corner, so I was pushed by the crowd. It's been a great feeling.
I've had hard times during this Tour de France but I never gave up. My morale was low after William Bonnet badly crashed, I was sick and I had a mechanical on the cobblestones. Lack of luck is part of sport, crashes and punctures are part of cycling, it also makes the beauty of cycling.
Despite all that, the atmosphere remained fantastic within the FDJ team. I need that kind of surroundings. I fought till the end. My team-mates also never gave up. That's how Alexandre Geniez went away from the gun today and was a great help when I rejoined him at the front.
Usually I follow the favorites and I attack but since I had a bad time in the Pyrenees, I became an attacker myself. My goal was to reach Paris with no regret and my goal is reached. It was worth waiting.
This is not my first win of the year, it's the third one and all three have been at mountain top finishes [the others were at the Tour de Romandie and Tour de Suisse].
A stage win might look less of an achievement than my third place overall last year but it's been an interesting Tour de France for my future.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.