Englishman Bradley Wiggins used some skillful riding in the mountains to retain the yellow jersey on Thursday during the 2012 Tour de France, though it was Spain's Alejandro Valverde to claim the 17th stage.
Riders battled through a 89-mile ride from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes on Thursday, chocked full with three hard climbs and an difficult uphill finish. Valverde, who returned from a two-year doping ban this year, won his third Tour stage this year.
As he tries to become the first Brit to win cycling's biggest race, Wiggins holds a 2 minutes, 5 seconds lead over the field. He told reporters after the stage that he sensed victory as just three days of racing remain. The toughest test may still be ahead of him, the individual time trail stage, but that just so happens to be his specialty.
The finish of the race consists of a pair of flat stages on Friday and Sunday, including the ride to the finish line on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The 18th stage on Friday is a 137-mile ride from Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde in central France.
For more on the 2012 Tour de France, make sure to check out Podium Cafe.