Team Sky's Chris Froome is heading towards a fourth Tour de France victory in five years after crossing the line on the Col d'Izoard at the end of today's Stage 18 alongside his closest rivals in the general classification, Cannondale-Drapac's Rigoberto Uran and Romain Bardet of AG2R-La Mondiale. The stage win went to Team Sunweb's Warren Barguil, who earlier in the stage had claimed an unassailable lead in the mountains classification.
Barguil overhauled lone leader Jhon Darwin Atapuma of UAE Team Emirates with 1.5 kilometres remaining of the 179.5-kilometre stage from Briancon remaining, denying the legions of Colombian fans who thronged the slopes of the mountain the chance of a double celebration on the country's national day.
Atapuma and Barguil were the last survivors of what had been a 54-man escape group as a number of teams looking to rescue something from this year's race on the final mountain stage.
The Colombian crossed the line in second place, 20 seconds behind the Frenchman, just ahead of Bardet whose third place gave him the bonus seconds that put him back to second overall, the same position he finished last year.
However, Saturday's time trial in Marseille may well see Uran, now 6 seconds behind Bardet in the General Classification, overhaul him.
Froome's strength in the time trial means that today was the last realistic chance for rivals to gain time on him, and while Bardet did attack on the Izoard, which was hosting a summit finish for the first time, it was quickly shut down, the defending champion countering immediately before he, the AG2R-La Mondiale rider and Uran came back together.
As it is, he leads the General Classification by 23 seconds and will be confident of building that lead on Saturday ahead of the procession into Paris on the final stage.
Heading towards the upper slopes of the Izoard, Team Sky moved to the front of the group containing the overall contenders which had previously been controlled by AG2R-La Mondiale.
Michal Kwiatkowski set a tempo at the head of the group that prevented rivals from attacking then, when he pulled off with about 5 kilometres remaining, Mikel Landa, in the hunt for a podium place, launched himself off the front in a move that surprised Team Sky's rivals.
That move by Landa saw Astana's Fabio Aru distanced, and the Basque rider has leapfrogged the Italian into fourth place overall, 1 minute 36 seconds behind his team leader.
Orica-Scott's Simon Yates, meanwhile, finished ahead of Louis Meintjes of UAE Team Emirates and now has more than 2 minutes' advantage over the South African, and the rider from Lancashire looks in good shape to take to the podium in Paris on Sunday in the best young rider's white jersey his twin brother Adam won last year.
Stage winner Warren Barguil
This is really fantastic, I can't believe it. It's really a dream to take another win. I wanted to take some extra time in the GC so I just rode my own climb and paced myself to the top. I managed to close to the leader and then when I still had the legs left, I continued to the line. It's brilliant for us to have four stage victories now, it's unbelievable.
Overall leader, Chris Froome
For sure it would have been amazing to have won on the most iconic climb of the race but my goal is the yellow jersey. If I reach Paris in yellow, I'll have no regret, even if I don't have a stage win.
The hardest part of the Tour is behind now. We passed the Pyrenees and now the Alps. Rigo is definitely my biggest threat. From the GC riders he's the next strongest time trialist and he's only 29 seconds down. I imagine he'll be the guy to look at for in Marseille.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.