Feeling like he was "dying a thousand deaths," Chris Froome started to think a second Tour de France victory might be melting away like snow on surrounding Alpine peaks.
Up ahead, already out of sight on the 21 hairpin bends lined by frenzied spectators, Froome's biggest rival at this Tour and those to come, Nairo Quintana, was flying, out of his saddle, getting away.
Grimly, Froome clung on. Following the wheels of two teammates who led him up cycling's most iconic climb to the Alpe d'Huez ski station, he passed — barely — the last big test before the three-week race rolls to its finish in Paris on Sunday.
"There was a moment where I felt this could go either way," the British rider said.
"I was on my absolute limits. I was dying a thousand deaths."
Quintana was outstanding on the storied ascent, piling on speed in his last real opportunity to unseat the race leader. Over his radio, Froome's Team Sky updated him on the Colombian's progress as he scythed through fans waving flares and smoke bombs.
"We were getting time checks every few minutes," Froome said. "It was comforting to see it wasn't suddenly jumping by 30 seconds each time. It was slowly moving up 5-10 seconds at a time."
Thibaut Pinot won Saturday's Stage 20, the third French victory of this Tour. But it was Quintana's bold last assault and Froome's tenacious defense that provided the thrilling finale to a spectacular race.
The 1 minute, 12 seconds Froome preserved over Quintana will see him crowned the winner on the Champs-Élysées.
"An amazing, amazing feeling," he said.
Made $24M: The New Jersey Devils re-signed defenseman Adam Larsson to a six-year contract at an average annual salary of more than $4.1 million.
Rallied late: Samantha Stosur won the last five games to beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-1, 7-5 at the Gastein (Austria) Ladies. Stosur will play top-seeded Sara Errani or Karin Knapp
Knocked out champ: Benoit Paire eliminated defending champ Pablo Cuevas 6-4, 6-3 in the Swedish Open semifinals. Paire will face Tommy Robredo, who beat Alexander Zverev 6-3, 6-4.
Canadian leads Canadian Open
David Hearn moved into position to become the first Canadian to win the Canadian Open in 61 years, taking a two-stroke lead over Bubba Watson and Jason Day. Hearn, from Brantford, birdied the par-3 15th and par-5 16th, but dropped a stroke on the par-4 17th and closed with a par for a 4-under 68 and a 15-under 201 total at Glen Abbey.
Pat Fletcher, born in England, was the last Canadian winner in 1954 at Point Grey in Vancouver. Carl Keffer is the only Canadian-born champion, winning in 1909 and 1914. Albert Murray, a Canadian also born in England, won in 1908 and 1913.
Watson also had a 68, and Day shot 69. Watson eagled the par-5 13th, made a bogey on the par-4 14th and rallied with birdies on 16 and the par-5 18th.
… Lizette Salas shot a 7-under 64 to take a four-stroke lead in the Meijer LPGA Classic, putting her in position for her second tour title. She had a 16-under 197 total at Blythefield Country Club. Lexi Thompson and Kris Tamulis were tied for second. Tamulis shot 67. Thompson had a 68. Top-ranked Inbee Park had five birdies in a six-hole stretch and finished with a 66 to move into a tie for 10th at 5 under.
AROUND THE HORN
NFL: The United States clinched its first FIVB World Grand Prix Finals championship since 2012 by defeating the two-time defending champion Brazil. A 25-16, 25-22, 25-21 sweep of second-ranked Brazil secured the title for the No. 1 Americans with one day remaining in the five-day event.
Motocross: Ryan Dungey of Belle Plaine won the Washougal National for his second straight Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships victory, fourth of the season and 42nd overall. The Red Bull/KTM rider won the second 450 Class moto after finishing second in the first. Yamaha's Justin Barcia was second. With three events left, Dungey has a 69-point lead over Barcia in the standings.
72 Series victories after Kyle Busch took advantage of Ryan Blaney's last-lap bobble, making an inside pass on the back straightaway to win the Xfinity Series race Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.