Tour de France Results - Stage 17

Arnaud Demare celebrates after winning Stage 18 of the Tour de France. EPA

What would also be Sky's sixth Tour de France triumph from the past seven editions would do little to appease the team's detractors, especially as Froome was only cleared to race at the 11th hour when the International Cycling Union (UCI) cleared him of wrongdoing following a lengthy, but unresolved anti-doping investigation.

Alexander Kristoff of Norway crossed third in the same time.

Thomas will have the rare luxury of having four-time Tour victor Chris Froome ride in his service after his team-mate slipped to third overall on Wednesday, declaring afterwards he is now all-in for Thomas.

After Froome cracked on the Col du Portet, all of Sky's strategy is aimed at getting Thomas to Paris in yellow - meaning Froome might have to help.

For Thomas, becoming the first Welsh Tour victor was a likely prospect after the race farewelled the Pyrenees with him extending his overall lead to two minutes and five seconds over Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb).

Among them was polka dot jersey wearer Julian Alaphilippe, Adam Yates and Damien Gaudin, who won the day's intermediate sprint, but contained none of Thomas's general classification rivals.

"We're expecting the worst and hoping for the best", Thomas said. There's a danger that someone could make a big move, gain two or three minutes, and then lose it all and more in the time trial.

"But having Froomey at my disposal is phenomenal".

One fan who reached over the barriers almost took Thomas down Wednesday.

"I have pain everywhere, but I'm happy that I can still keep racing".

Dumoulin knows he needs a miracle of sorts to take the yellow jersey. "But if I see an opportunity, I will take it for sure", Dumoulin said.

Elia Viviani (QuickStep Floors) leads the way, while Caleb Ewan (Mitchelton-Scott) will have a point to prove after his surprise omission from his team's Tour squad. "We will see if it's possible".

But he picked himself up from the side of the ride in the Pyrenees and finished 26 minutes behind stage victor Nairo Quintana of Movistar in 134th place.

On a warm day in southern France, Stage 18 took riders through the vineyards of Madiran to the city of Pau, the birthplace of 16th-century king Henri IV.

Former ski jumper Roglic tried to drop Thomas several times in the last climb up to the Col d'Aubisque but the Team Sky rider kept his composure and controlled the situation throughout. Both riders got back on their bikes and continued without apparent problems.

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