Portugal’s Rui Costa claimed his second win of the 100th Tour de France on Friday as yellow jersey holder Chris Froome looked ahead to tasting overall victory in Paris.
Movistar rider Costa shot out of a chasing peloton on the fifth and final climb of the 204.5 km ride from Bourg d’Oisans to Le Grand Bornand to catch stage leader Europcar’s Pierre Rolland.
The Portuguese, taking his second win and the third of his career following a victory in similar style on stage 16 to Gap, crossed the finish line 47secs ahead of German veteran Andreas Kloden (RadioShack).
“I’m really happy to have won but to be honest I didn’t really believe in my chances at the start of the stage,” said Costa.
“That’s why I decided to wait until the final climb to make my move.”
Team Sky leader Froome came over the finish line just under nine minutes in arrears but with his 5min 11sec overall lead over Spanish rival Alberto Contador intact.
“To be over five minutes ahead of the second place wearing the yellow jersey is just amazing,” said Froome. “It’s going to be very hard for someone to take more than five minutes off me in 125 kilometres (on Saturday), but I don’t want to be complacent. I have to stay switched on.”
On the penultimate day in the mountains there was ample opportunity for Contador’s Saxo team to try and claw back their deficit. But as an early breakaway forged ahead of the main bunch, the Spaniard’s challenge failed to materialise.
Saxo’s accelerations helped drop several of Froome’s teammates on the penultimate climb, but the Kenyan-born Briton ultimately crossed the finish safely on the wheel of Australian teammate Richie Porte.
Contador admitted his hopes of a third victory, after wins in 2007 and 2009, were over. “We attacked a little and I spoke with my teammate Roman (Kreuziger) about the possibility of attacking,” said Contador.
Ahead of Saturday’s final day in the Alps, the 125 km 19th stage from Annecy to the summit of Annecy-Semnoz, Froome looks virtually assured of succeeding compatriot and teammate Bradley Wiggins as the race champion. Asked if he had anything left to aim for on Sunday, Contador said: “It all depends on the legs I have tomorrow, and how the race develops and what tactics we can employ.”