Spain's Alejandro Valverde won Stage 17 of the 2012 Tour de France, but it was Bradley Wiggins who was the story after the ride from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes.
Valverde crossed the finish line in 04:12:11 with Wiggins and teammate Christopher Froome finishing 19 seconds behind the Movistar Team rider.
Wiggins and Froome now find themselves in first and second place overall, respectively. Wiggins is virtually a lock to win cycling's greatest race after putting on a masterful performance throughout the 89-mile ride—and the 32-year-old knows it (via VeloNews.com):
The moment we crossed the Peyresourde, I allowed myself to drift and that was the first time I thought, 'Maybe I've won the Tour today.' Once we saw Nibali had cracked on the top of the Peyresourde, we knew we weren't going to have the danger of him attacking in the final.
This stage was one of the final serious tests for Wiggins and the rest of Team Sky. Hard climbs and uphill finishes—both of which we saw Thursday—aren't Wiggins' strengths, but he did well to tap into something extra throughout Stage 17.
Vincenzo Nibali, who is in third place overall, lost 37 seconds and must feel the prospects of winning slipping out of reach.
American's Tejay van Garderen and Christopher Horner finished in eight and ninth place, respectively.
General Classification Leaderboard
|2||Christopher Froomer||+ 02:05|
|3||Vincenzo Nibali||+ 02:41|
|4||Jurgen Van Den Broeck||+ 05:43|
|5||Tejay Van Garderen||+ 08:30|
|6||Cadel Evans||+ 09:57|
|7||Haimar Zubeldia||+ 10:11|
|8||Pierre Rolland||+ 10:17|
|9||Janez Brajkovic||+ 11:00|
|10||Thibaut Pinot||+ 11:46|
Here is the best of Stage 17, courtesy of Cycling World Tour:
The field gears up for Friday's Stage 18 that spans 138 miles from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde. Wiggins will be looking to pad his lead even further and hopefully give himself a chance to ride a victory lap of sorts over the last two stages of the competition.
Barring an epic collapse, it should be Wiggins who stands atop the podium in Paris.
Here's a preview of the next stage, courtesy of CylingNews.com: