Alejandro Valverde of Spain won the 17th stage of the Tour de France, while Bradley Wiggins mastered a last big test in the mountains to retain the yellow jersey on Thursday.
The 89-mile ride from Bagneres-de-Luchon to the ski station of Peyragudes featured three hard climbs and an uphill finish.
Valverde, the Movistar team leader who once served a doping ban , won his third Tour stage in a breakaway. Christopher Froome of Britain was second and his Sky team leader Wiggins was third, both 19 seconds back.
Wiggins faces one last test — the individual time trial, his specialty — on Saturday. He's trying to become the first Briton to win cycling's biggest race.
Flat stages await on Friday and in Sunday's ride to the finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Those stages aren't expected to alter the standings.