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.
- Movistar Team rider Alejandro Valverde of Spain celebrates winning the 17th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Bagneres-de-Luchon and Peyragudes, July 19, 2012. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT CYCLING) Photo: REUTERS
- It is the first win for Valverde and Movistar Team at the race. Photo: REUTERS
- Movistar Team rider Alejandro Valverdec celebrated as he crossed the finish line. Photo: REUTERS
- Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme (R) and France's Interior Minister Manuel Valls signal the start before the 17th stage of the 99th Tour de France. Photo: REUTERS
- Toys figurines representing the leader's jersey riders are seen on a hat before the start of the 17th stage. Photo: REUTERS
- Sky Procycling rider wearing the leader's yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins of Britain (C) and riders await the start before the 17th stage. Photo: REUTERS
- Team Europcar rider wearing the best climber's polka dot jersey, Thomas Voeckler of France holds his bicycle as he prepares. Photo: REUTERS
- The pack of riders cycles in the Pyrenees mountains during the 16th stage of the 99th Tour de France cycling race between Pau and Bagneres-de-Luchon, July 18, 2012. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT CYCLING) Photo: REUTERS
- Sky Procycling rider and leader's yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins of Britain ahead of the other riders. Photo: REUTERS