EMBRUN ( France) • A fourth yellow jersey is within Chris Froome's reach, and he insists that it will not be any less cherished if he becomes only the seventh rider in history to clinch the Tour de France without winning a stage.
"It would have been amazing to win a stage on the most iconic climb of the race, but my goal is to focus on the yellow jersey," Froome said on Thursday. "If I get to Paris in yellow, I will have no regrets whatsoever about this Tour."
Poised to stand behind only four riders - Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain - who have five triumphs each, it is easy to see why Froome may have regarded the issue as secondary.
In his mind, he is chasing Tour immortality, not just victory for a day.
To win this Tour, he had to first avoid trouble in yesterday's 222.5km 19th stage, an almost dead straight 222.5km run from Embrun down to Salon de Provence.
He will then have to perform to his capabilities in today's time-trial in Marseilles when he could yet pick up a stage win.
Tomorrow's 103km procession to Paris is almost certain to end in a bunch sprint.
Froome certainly had thoughts that he may triumph at the top of the Col d'Izoard on Thursday.
But for Team Sky, it turned out to be more than satisfactory that Froome defended his lead over two days in the Alps.
"Historically, I tend to have a bad day in the Alps so it's nice to get through," he said.
"The plan was always to come into this last week strong."
Froome is feeling confident after coming through two tough Alpine stages and knowing that he is a better time-triallist than the only two riders still in contention to beat him - Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran.
"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.
THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
TOUR DE FRANCE
Stage 20: Singtel TV Ch112 & StarHub Ch212, 8pm