Only one significant hurdle stands between Chris Froome and Tour de France glory today although it stands 1,655 metres high.
At the top, Froome will find the finish line in Annecy-Semnoz, where he will be effectively crowned the winner of the 100th Tour de France providing his rivals do not find a way to demolish a lead of more than five minutes.
With the final stage into Paris traditionally a procession before a sprint finish, Froome’s rivals know they must make a move today on the short 125km run to Annecy-Semnoz, which finishes with that hors categorie climb into the sky, or settle for a runner-up place.
It will not be an easy day for Froome, however.
Organisers have made the 100th Tour de France unusually tough – and by the time they finish tomorrow the riders will have been going uphill for a total of 170km in the final four days.
“There’s still 125km to go tomorrow but it’s going to be very hard for someone to make up more than five minutes on the general classification,” said Froome.
“Having said that, this is a day where the whole team has to stay alert, control that last stage with one final big effort, and then we can start relaxing on the ride into Paris.”
Froome was breathing a sigh of relief last night when he came through a much bigger test unscathed.
Stage 19 to Le Grand-Bornand was considered by many riders to be the toughest on a Tour which has already taken in Mont Ventoux and a double ascent of the Alpe d’Huez, and its five categorised climbs seemed to offer Froome’s rivals plenty of opportunities to attack.
But instead Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana stayed quiet until the final ascent, a wet ride up the Col de la Croix Fry in deteriorating conditions, at which point Froome comfortably covered their moves.
“I was happy to be able to follow those attacks,” Froome said. “The team did a really good job. Geraint Thomas and Ian Stannard did the lion’s share of the work there, and it gives me a lot of pride to finish off the stage like that, and to be in this position going into the penultimate day.
“I certainly feel a big sigh of relief. I was quite nervous about it so I’m glad to put today behind us.”
Froome cut short his press conference, apologising but saying he was “pretty nailed” and needed to recover before today’s exploits, and there were certainly no premature celebrations from Team Sky.
“It’s like being 2-0 up in football and thinking you’ve got it sewn up,” said Sky’s team principal Sir Dave Brailsford. “It’s the worst score to have. You are lulled into a sense of confidence.”