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Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) climbs the Col de la Colombière with Lance Armstrong (Astana) on his wheel.
Podium spots two and three to be decided on Mont Ventoux
Brit Bradley Wiggins is fourth overall heading into the Tour de France's penultimate stage tomorrow, finishing atop Mont Ventoux. Depending on his climbing abilities and teams' tactics, Garmin-Slipstream team director Matt White believes Wiggins may rise to third overall.
"We would like to get Bradley on the podium, but it is going to be one hell of a battle," said White today.
Spain's Alberto Contador (Astana) leads the race by 4:11 over Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) and the Spaniard is likely to win his second Tour de France title in Paris on Sunday.
There are three riders behind Contador and Schleck who are within 38 seconds of each other. Contador's teammate Lance Armstrong is in third at 5:21, Wiggins fourth at 5:36, Andreas Klöden (Astana) fifth at 5:38 and Saxo Bank's Fränk Schleck sixth at 5:59.
"The Schlecks are going very, well and I am sure they are going to give it to Bradley as much as they can. And the dynamic of Astana is interesting because they have three guys who could all be on the podium if they do things right."
Mont Ventoux is a 22.1-kilometre climb that comes at the end of a 167-kilometre stage. It features gradients up to 10.6 percent as it rises to 1912 metres. The final kilometres to its rocky, barren summit become even more challenging due to the expected oppressive heat and the lack of trees to buffer the characteristic high winds.
Wiggins stayed with all the overall favourites except Contador on the Tour's previous mountaintop finish, Sunday's Verbier stage. He survived Tuesday's mountain stage to Le Grand-Bornand, but lost time on the Colombière climb Wednesday.
"I have a lot of faith in Bradley and his abilities," said White. "His results are not a surprise. He is the best track rider, the best endurance athlete in the last 10 years on the track. Why can't people see that an endurance machine on the track can do the same thing on the road?"
Wiggins became Garmin-Slipstream's classification leader after a crash in the Giro d'Italia ruined Christian Vande Velde's chances. Vande Velde, fourth overall in the Tour last year, is currently eighth overall and is committed to helping Wiggins.
Great Britain's highest-ever placed rider at the Tour de France is Robert Millar who finished fourth overall 25 years ago at the 1984 Tour.