Embrun - Chris Froome will tackle the home straight on
Friday in his bid for a fourth Tour de France title.
The 19th stage is an almost dead straight 222.5km run from
Embrun in the Alps down to Salon de Provence, not far from the Mediterranean.
In theory, it should be a good day for the sprinters with a
flat finish, but the lumpy terrain throughout most of the stage could encourage
some dare-devils to go on a breakaway, with this the last chance for one to
succeed all the way to the finish.
Saturday will see a 22.5km time-trial around Marseille while
Sunday's 103km procession to Paris is almost certain to end in a bunch sprint.
On paper at least, Friday's stage looks a simple, if long,
task. But coming after almost three weeks of toil and effort, traversing five
mountain ranges notably, then Froome and his rivals can't afford to relax, even
with one eye on Saturday's race against the clock.
Froome is feeling confident after coming through two tough
Alpine stages and knowing that he is a better time-trialist than the only two
riders still in contention to beat him - Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran.
Bardet has impressed with his inventiveness and guile but he
simply hasn't had the strength to make a significant dent in Froome's armour.
At the finish on the Col d'Izoard on Thursday, Froome
certainly had the look of a man who felt the job was almost done.
"I wouldn’t say it's quite won yet, but certainly the
toughest part of the Tour is behind us with the Alps and Pyrenees done
now," said the 32-year-old Briton.
"I'm happy to get through, also better than in previous
years - I've always struggled (in the Alps) so it's nice to get that one out of
the way now."
While that race is almost over, one competition did find its
winner on Thursday.
Warren Barguil sewed up the king of the mountains polkadot jersey
as he won his second stage of the race - he must now just reach Paris to be
Australian Michael Matthews is all but mathematically the
green sprinters' points jersey winner - he needs either a single point on
Friday or for Andre Greipel to fail to take maximum points in order to win.
And Simon Yates homed in on the young riders' white jersey,
a year after his twin brother Adam won it, as he maintained a lead of more than
two minutes over Louis Meintjes.