Bradley Wiggins has told ITV News that he has allowed himself to contemplate becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France as he tightened his grip on the famous yellow jersey with only three stages left.
Wiggins came second on the final mountain stage today, leaving him two minutes five seconds ahead of Team Sky colleague and fellow Briton Chris Froome, whose primary role is to support his compatriot, in second and move 18 seconds further ahead of Vincenzo Nibali.
The triple Olympic champion - who was wearing the yellow jersey for the 10th day - allowed himself to be distracted by thoughts of victory towards the end of today's race.
Wiggins told ITV News:
It's the hardest cycle race in the world the Tour de France - it doesn't get much harder in cycling terms.
To do it, or to be well on the way to doing it is, well it's everything.
Coming up the last couple of k here, it is the first time in the whole year I had allowed myself to think I had just won the Tour and I lost all concentration, all fight, everything to do with performance - that all went out of the window - and it was a nice feeling.
I've come a long way to be here.
Wiggins has been in fantastic form this season, winning the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine stage races.
With Alberto Contador serving a doping ban and Andy Schleck out injured, Wiggins was strongly tipped to beat defending champion Cadel Evans to victory.
The 32-year-old has also had to cope with questions on doping - a topic often discussed with the Tour leader, due to the race's history - and conjecture that Froome should be Team Sky's leader. Wiggins said:
I feel strange. I don't know what to do at the moment.
After everything I've done this year you still have to justify... 'so you might've won the Tour but is it ever going to be remembered for these people not being here?'
No-one's actually patted me on the back yet, it's all still in a negative sense.
No Briton has finished on the Tour podium before. Wiggins' fourth-placed finish in 2009 equalled Robert Millar's 1984 British best in the Tour. Then he moved to Team Sky, whose stated aim was to win the Tour with a British rider within five years.
They are on the cusp of achieving their goal in three and it appears a revolution has begun, with Froome also aiming for future success.
The Team Sky principal said:
We are very proud of our work as a team.
Normally, barring accidents, the Tour is won but there are still two stages to come.
Things can still happen and if we start to think about Paris it would be dangerous. So we will stay alert and treat tomorrow like it was the first day again.
- For more on the Tour de France, including highlights and interviews, go to the ITV Sport website