ESPELETTE – Britain's Geraint Thomas virtually secured his maiden Tour de France triumph after finishing third in the penultimate stage time trial in the Basque country on Saturday.
Thomas, of Team Sky, held a 2min 05sec overnight lead on Dutch rival Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) ahead of the 31km race against the clock from Saint-Pee-Sur-Nivelle to Espelette.
Dumoulin is the world time trial champion, and he stayed true to form by powering over the technical course in a time of 40 min 50sec to leave Thomas 14secs in arrears.
But it was only enough to secure his virtual runner-up place in the race, Dumoulin's second in a Grand Tour this year after he finished runner-up to Chris Froome at the Giro d'Italia in May.
Froome, the defending and four-time Tour de France champion, produced the second best performance of the day, finishing just one second behind Dumoulin to move back up to third place overall.
Froome had been pushed down to fourth, and off the podium, when Primoz Roglic's attack and consequent stage win in the final day in the mountains Friday left the Kenyan-born Briton struggling.
But Slovenian Roglic, of Lotto-Jumbo, failed to follow up his feat on the time trial. He finished seventh at 1:12 behind Dumoulin.
Thomas, who has helped Froome win several of his six Grand Tour titles, celebrated at the end of the stage by jumping into the arms of his wife.
Barring catastophe on Sunday, when the peloton rides from Houilles to Paris in festive spirit before the sprinters take over for a battle on the Champs Elysees, Thomas will win Team Sky's sixth yellow jersey from the last seven editions of the race.
Bradley Wiggins won their first, in 2012, while Froome won the race in 2013 and 2015-2017.AFP