Stage 17 was Vincenzo Nibali's last chance.
Trailing leader Bradley Wiggins by just over two minutes—and Wiggins' teammate Chris Froome by a couple of seconds—Nibali absolutely had to make up some ground on Thursday, which marked the storied race's last mountain stage.
Instead, as Spaniard Alejandro Valverde raced to the stage win, Wiggins and Froome cruised to second and third, gaining a crucial 18 seconds on Nibali, who finished seventh.
That increases Wiggins' lead to two minutes and 41 seconds over the Liquigas-Cannondale team leader.
And unforunately, at least for Nibali, that's all she wrote.
With just two flat stages and one individual time trial left, the Italian has little to no chance of catching Wiggins, especially if he continues to work so well with his Team Sky buddy.
That teamwork was on display in full on Thursday.
The 27-year-old Froome, who won his first ever stage earlier this month, had a legitimate chance to catch Valverde on the final climb and go for his second win of the race.
But that's not what Team Sky, and Froome in particular, is after (per Eurosport, via the Guardian):
Asked if he thought he could have won the stage, (Froome) replies: "I don't know, that wasn't our objective." He also says that he was "definitely expecting Nibali to attack but on the last climb I could see that his legs weren't looking that super so I said to Bradley, come on, let's go."
If that doesn't at least give you some admiration for Froome, well, I don't know what to tell you. Bradley Wiggins will, unless something drastic happens, leave Paris with his first ever Tour de France win, but Froome has been the perfect wingman.
Froomdog is a class act, and Wiggins wouldn't be where he is this week without his teammate helping him over these huge climbs.
That is, of course, not to say that Wiggins isn't talented, because that couldn't be further from the truth. It's just impressive to see how great of a team these two make.
And as long as they continue to work together to form this unstoppable team, Nibali has no chance to break out of third place.
Wiggins and Froome, if on different teams, would likely be battling it out for the yellow jacket. But with them on the same team, they are simply on a different level.
With no more mountain stages to make up serious time, this race is over. Feel free to let the champagne flow a little early.
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