Bradley Wiggins will become Britain's best rider in the Tour de France in 20 years if he can stay with the favourites on the Mont Ventoux climb tomorrow.
"I think it is going to be a close race. Barring a blow up, the worst I am going to finish is seventh," said Wiggins this morning.
Wiggins (Garmin) is fourth in the overall classification. He is 5:36 behind race leader Alberto Contador (Astana), but only 15 seconds behind Lance Armstrong (Astana) in third.
He jumped up two spots after yesterday's time trial around the lake in Annecy. He finished sixth, the best-placed classification rider besides stage winner Contador.
"It was a brilliant ride yesterday," said Wiggins. "Alberto was on another level again, as he has been the whole race. I was pleased with the gaps I made on the classification guys, which is what I was after yesterday."
The race finishes Sunday in Paris with a flat stage, but tomorrow's mountaintop finish on Mont Ventoux will likely force changes in the classification. The 22.1-kilometre final climb features gradients from nine to ten percent in some spots and the last kilometres are always hot and windy/.
Wiggins is worried about the men he bettered in yesterday's time trial, riders who are more accustomed to climbing. Andreas Klöden (Astana) is two seconds back from Wiggins in fifth, Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) at 23 seconds and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at 1:39.
"There is Fränk, who will want to get on the [final] podium and Nibali has been going strong in the mountains," said Wiggins.
Wiggins is likely to become the highest placed Brit since Robert Millar's tenth place in 1989. Should he place third he would better Millar's fourth place in 1984.
The only other Brit to ride in the Tour's top ten was Tom Simpson, who was sixth in 1962. He died five years later at the Tour de France on the Mont Ventoux climb.