Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome moved a big step closer to a Tour de France 1-2 as they stretched their overall advantage with outstanding performances on stage 17, the final day in the mountains.
The stage was won by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) who jumped out of the break and bridged across to team-mate Rui Costa with 35 kilometres to go before riding to a solo victory in Peyragudes.
However the Team Sky duo of Wiggins and Froome put him under real pressure on the final climb up to the ski station finish as they dramatically cut into his lead and distanced all their remaining rivals in the process, including third-placed Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).
Froome crossed the line in second, just 19 seconds behind Valverde, with Wiggins right on his wheel in third. Nibali was 18 seconds further back in seventh.
It all means Wiggins, who is bidding to be the first British winner of the yellow jersey in Paris on Sunday, retains a lead of 2:05 over Froome and 2:41 over Nibali, with no other rider within five minutes of the maillot jaune.
Even Wiggins himself admits that an historic victory in Paris is now tantalisingly close, saying: "The minute we went over the Peyresourde I knew that was it. I still felt fantastic at that point. We hit the last climb and I went on the front. I just lost concentration and started thinking a lot of things. Froomey was egging me on for more but I knew that [the riders behind] were all gone.
"I knew someone was going to attack and I knew it was going to be hard. As they were fatiguing off I was feeling better and better, so it was actually getting slower the higher we got up. Once we went over the summit I knew Nibali was in trouble and a few of the other guys. I had a little chat with Froomey on the descent and that was it.
"Obviously we've got the time trial to come but that's very much our domain. It's all looking very good at the moment."
Show of strength
Wiggins began the short but sharp 143.5-kilometre route from Bagneres-de-Luchon in the yellow jersey for a 10th day, with Nibali knowing he had to make a move.
But it was Wiggins, with able support from Froome, who distanced the Italian on the finishing ascent.
Valverde led in the closing stages of the route as Wiggins took to the front of an eight-man group 4km from the summit of the day's final ascent, the 15.4km climb to Peyragudes.
Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) attacked, increasing the pace, before Froome took to the front, keeping the tempo high.
The relentless pace saw the group disintegrate and Nibali lost contact 3km from the summit.
Froome forged on and Wiggins latched on to his wheel before the Team Sky duo pushed on as their rivals lost touch and they closed in on Valverde all the way to the line.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-Big Mat) was fourth, three seconds further adrift, with Pierre Rolland (Europcar) fifth and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) sixth, both 26 seconds behind Valverde.
Friday's 222.5km 18th stage from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde features three classified climbs, but could end in a sprint finish. It's then a 53.5km time trial on Saturday before the final stage in Paris on Sunday.