A victory for Thomas on Sunday will see six of the last seven editions of the Tour being won by Team Sky riders
Geraint Thomas is on the verge of winning the Tour de France after managing to protect his yellow jersey in the stage 20 time trial.
The Team Sky rider finished the Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle to Espelette stage with a lead of one minute and 51 seconds after coming third on the road.
His closest rival in the general classification, Tom Dumoulin, won the stage by one second from Chris Froome and 14 seconds from Thomas, but the world time trial champion never looked like putting Thomas’ comfortable cushion in danger.
Thomas will become the third British winner of the race, joining Sir Bradley Wiggins and Froome, and it will mean the trio have won six of the last seven editions, all in Team Sky colours.
Froome’s performance was enough to put him back on the podium and he will finish third overall, having overhauled LottoNL-Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic on the stage.
Froome had started the Tour looking for a record-equalling fifth Tour title and seeking a rare Giro-Tour double, but he found that attempting to win a fourth consecutive Grand Tour was a step too far.
Thomas emulates Wiggins in converting himself from an Olympic team pursuit champion into the winner of the world’s biggest road race.
The 32-year-old had never before finished in the top 10 of a Grand Tour. In his only previous serious attempt to win one, he was forced to withdraw following a crash midway through last year’s Giro d’Italia.
Though Team Sky have faced ill-feeling on the French roadside once again in this Tour, Thomas is a popular figure in the world of cycling and victory for a man so long accustomed to playing a supporting role for others will be celebrated far and wide.
Thomas had survived Friday’s big test, a 200.5-kilometre stage from Lourdes to Laruns which took the peloton over three of the toughest Pyrenean climbs – the Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque. He started the time trial knowing his buffer would be enough if he could avoid incident.
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Intermittent rain, the first significant downfall of the entire Tour, created unpredictable conditions on Saturday’s 31km course. There was one significant scare for Thomas with around 19km to go when the bike almost slipped from underneath him on a right-hand bend.
Thomas may have known he had a buffer to play with but he was not taking it easy as he was fastest through the first and second splits before grinding up the Col de Pinodieta and dropping back.
Dumoulin had to console himself with his third career Tour stage win – all of which have come in individual time trials.
The Team Sunweb rider’s day did not get off to an ideal start when he could not find his time trial skin suit in the morning.
But with his clothing sponsor based just across the Spanish border in San Sebastian, an emergency call was placed and they whipped him up a new set of the world champion’s rainbow stripes in time.
Irishman Dan Martin shipped more than two minutes in the time trial but the UAE Team Emirates rider – named the most combative in the Tour overall – did enough to protect his top 10 place as he is set to finish eighth overall.