Bradley Wiggins of Britain puts on the overall leader's yellow jersey… (Laurent Rebours / Associated…)
Bradley Wiggins survived the last big mountain test of the Tour de France and looks likely to become the first British rider to win cycling's biggest race.
A third-place finish in Thursday's Stage 17 -- which features three hard climbs and an uphill finish -- gave Wiggins a 2-minute, 5-second lead over Sky teammate Christopher Froome to retain the overall leader's yellow jersey.
After completing the last big climb, Wiggins said he sensed "that it was pretty much over" with just three days of racing left -- a pair of flat stages and a time trial, which just happens to be Wiggins' specialty.
Alejandro Valverde of Spain won his third stage tour in a breakaway, with Froome finishing second. The Movistar leader returned from a two-year doping ban this year and has overcome a rough start to the Tour that included at least three crashes.
“I went all out,” Valverde said with tears in his eyes. “When I saw there were only 700 meters left, I was really really happy.”
He added of the stage victory: “It erases all of the past.”
Photos: 2012 Tour de France
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