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Britain's Wiggins rolls toward so much Tour history

BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France — Britain's Bradley Wiggins overcame the mountains and challengers to retain the yellow jersey, while Spain's Alejandro Valverde won Thursday's 17th stage of the Tour de France.

After the last hard ascent, Bradley maintained his overall lead and said he sensed "that it was pretty much over" with just three racing days left. He's trying to become the first Briton to win cycling's biggest race.

Wiggins faces one last test — the individual time trial, his specialty — on Saturday.

Flat stages await Wiggins today and Sunday, which features the ride to the finish in Paris. Those stages aren't expected to alter the standings.

He appears on pace to make history: Wiggins would become the first Olympic track champion to become a Tour winner. He took the yellow jersey in Stage 7 and hasn't let go of it since. No rider has done that since France's Bernard Hinault held a lead from the same stage in 1981 to the finish.

An 89-mile ride from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes featured three ascents in the Pyrenees and an uphill finish. Valverde won his third Tour stage in a breakaway. Christopher Froome of Britain was second, and Wiggins was third, both 19 seconds back.

"I went all out," said Valverde, whose Tour started with three crashes. "When I saw there were only 700 meters left, I was really really happy."

Overall, Wiggins leads Froome by 2 minutes, 5 seconds, and Italy's Vincenzo Nibali is third, 2:41 back.

Britain's Wiggins rolls toward so much Tour history 07/19/12 [Last modified: Thursday, July 19, 2012 8:48pm]
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