The Tour de France concludes in Paris this weekend with the duel for the race leader's yellow jersey set to end in Alberto Contador's favour.
The 27-year-old Spaniard, who won the 2007 and 2009 Tours, finished half a bike wheel behind Andy Schleck on yesterday's 174-kilometre 17th stage from Pau to the Col du Tourmalet to retain an eight-second advantage.
With today's 198km 18th stage from Salies-de-Bearn to Bordeaux expected to be one for the sprinters, the overall battle for the maillot jaune will resume with tomorrow's 52km time-trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac.
Contador (Astana) stopped short of celebrating his third Tour in four years as he emerged from the mist-shrouded Col du Tourmalet on the shoulder of Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), but the Spaniard is the more competent against the clock.
Contador finished 42 seconds and 116 places ahead of Schleck in the Tour's opening 8.9km prologue in Rotterdam, but is avoiding complacency.
"I'm still wanting and wishing to win my third Tour de France - I'm not yet there," said Contador.
"I still have to reach Paris and it's not easy.
"We have a very long and tough time-trial on Saturday."
On Wednesday's rest day, Schleck admitted he would have to be in the lead for the time-trial through the vineyards of south-west France in order to be successful overall.
But following his second stage win of the 97th Tour he changed his mind in his assessment that the rider in yellow today would win overall - he is not prepared to give up while the opportunity of victory remains.
"We will see after the time-trial," said Schleck, who also won the eighth stage to Morzine-Avoriaz.
"It's only eight seconds and I can see the yellow jersey in front of me.
"I really want it and I'm not going to give up until Paris."