Chris Froome is set to win his first Giro d’Italia title after fighting off repeated attacks from Tom Dumoulin on the final mountain stage.
The Dutchman tried to attack race leader Froome on a number of occasions on the climb to the summit finish at Cervinia where, seven minutes earlier, Mikel Nieve had won the stage for Mitchelton-Scott on his 34th birthday.
But Froome, who claimed the lead with his incredible attack 80km from the end of Friday’s stage, was equal to all of the defending champion’s hard work and made it to the finish line to extend his lead by a handful of seconds.
With Sunday’s final stage traditionally a procession, Froome is on the verge of becoming only the seventh rider to win all three Grand Tours, having won last year’s Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana.
The Team Sky rider will also become just the third man to hold all three Grand Tours, following in the footsteps of Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx.
Froome’s former Nieve had been part of a 20-strong break that developed early in the stage, although most of those had long since disappeared when he made the vital attack early on the third tough climb of the day.
One victim of the stage was third-placed Thibaut Pinot, who appeared to be suffering with illness, and much like Simon Yates on Friday saw his hopes of a podium finish crushed.
Defending champion Dumoulin launched a series of stinging attacks, aided by Team Sunweb colleague Sam Oomen, but Froome was always able to respond and, by the end of the climb, it was Dumoulin who looked more vulnerable.
And, with Froome managing to drop a deflated Dumoulin in the run to the line, the Briton was actually able to add six seconds to his lead, which stands at 46 seconds heading to Rome on Sunday.