Primoz Roglic took an important hurdle on Thursday towards the overall victory in the Tour de France.
The Jumbo-Visma leader did not budge from his competitors in the last tough Alpine stage, which was won by Michal Kwiatkowski from INEOS Grenadiers.
The 168-kilometer stage from Méribel to La Roche-sur-Foron had five climbs and was one of the last chances for the GC men to attack Roglic.
However, the Slovenian was again very strong.
At the front, Kwiatkowski and his teammate Richard Carapaz were left from a large leading group of 32 riders.
The finish was special, as the INEOS duo crossed the line laughing together.
The finish photo showed that Kwiatkowski's bike crossed the line just earlier.
In the standings, Roglic is 57 seconds ahead of UAE Team Emirates rider and fellow countryman Tadej Pogacar.
With a deficit of 1.27, Miguel Ángel López of Astana is number three.
Tom Dumoulin (+7.24) is the best Dutchman in ninth place.
The Tour peloton will race on Friday in the nineteenth stage from Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole over a course with one fourth category climb.
Roglic's yellow jersey will probably not be endangered there.
That may still be the case on Saturday, when an individual time trial is scheduled.
Competitor Pogacar is Slovenian champion in that event.
The final stage to Paris will follow on Sunday, where normally no differences arise.
32 riders ahead in seventeenth stage
Early in Thursday's stage a leading group of no less than 32 riders was formed, in which Dylan van Baarle was the only Dutchman.
He was joined by three INEOS teammates with Carapaz, Kwiatkowski and Jonathan Castroviejo.
In view of the green jersey, Sam Bennett and Peter Sagan were also in the front group.
They had to pay for their effort for the intermediate sprint, won by green jersey wearer Bennett, on the first climb of the day;
both sprinters could no longer follow the pace of the leading group.
During the race there were more riders who had to let their fellow refugees go.
Carapaz, Kwiatkowski, Marc Hirschi, Peio Bilbao and Nicolas Edet were left after the second climb, after which Edet had to release on the third climb and Hirschi fell in the descent.
Roglic checked with Jumbo-Visma behind it.
On the Col des Saisies, the tough fourth climb of the day, the GC men kept calm.
That changed on the last pass, when first Mikel Landa chose the attack and then Pogacar also hit it.
Roglic did not budge, however, kept checking with Sepp Kuss as his main helper and drove smoothly to the finish in the remaining 25 kilometers in the group with favorites.
At the front, Carapaz and Kwiatkowski were now over together.
The INEOS rider provided a remarkable finish.
See also: View the classifications of the Tour de France with Dumoulin in ninth place