ANNECY-SEMNOZ, France (AFP) – Britain's Chris Froome virtually secured overall victory in the 100th Tour de France Saturday after a 20th and penultimate stage won by Colombian climbing specialist Nairo Quintana.
Ahead of Sunday's final stage from Versailles to Paris, which is usually only disputed by the sprinters, Froome defended his significant overnight lead over his rivals on the final day in the mountains.
"I think in terms of the general classification we can say it's done," said the Kenyan-born Briton, who will succeed compatriot and teammate Bradley Wiggins as the race champion.
"Tomorrow will be a day for the sprinters on the Champs Elysees, and that suits me fine."
Spain's Alberto Contador, second overnight at 5min 11sec, fell off the pace early on the final 10.3 km climb to Annecy-Semnoz.
His inability to follow the pace left Froome, Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez to forge on ahead and dispute the stage victory.
Froome, the winner of three stages already in this edition, tested both his rivals with a short burst of acceleration 8.4 km from the finish with but the Team Sky leader could not respond when Quintana pulled ahead with two kilometres to race.
"It was still a very hard stage today," added Froome. "Especially the final climb, Rodriguez and Quintana didn't make it easy for me."
Quintana crossed the finish line alone in triumph to claim his maiden stage win on his race debut, moving him up to second overall at 5:03 behind Froome a day before the final in Paris.
Rodriguez came over the line 17sec adrift, but despite missing out on victory, the Katusha team leader's efforts moved him up to third overall at 5:47.
As well as virtually securing Colombia's first runner-up spot on the race, 25 years after Fabio Parra's third place finish in 1988, Quintana secured the King of the Mountains' polka dot jersey as well as the white jersey for the best young rider.
"It's amazing to achieve this but a lot of it comes down to the work of the team," said Quintana. "We wanted to finish the race with a stage win for me and I knew today I had a chance to finish second overall."