Tadej Pogacar is set to become the youngest two-time Tour de France winner after the Slovenian maintained his lead in the overall standings after the last time trial, a solo effort of 30.8km from Libourne.
The 22-year-old defending champion (UAE Emirates) finished eighth in the 20th stage won by Belgian Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who clocked a best time of 35 minutes, 53 seconds.
Danes Kasper Asgreen and Jonas Vingegaard finished second and third respectively in stage 20, 21 and 32 seconds behind the pace.
In total, Pogacar is ahead of the Dane Jonas Vingegaard by 5 min: 20 sec and Ecuador Richard Carapaz by 7 min: 03 sec before the last stage on Sunday, a largely processional race from Chatou to the Champs Elysées in Paris.
Australia’s Ben O’Connor is set to cap off an impressive tour debut, occupying fourth place overall after finishing 31st in the time trial to retain his overall place ahead of Dutchman Wilco Kelderman .
“I’m really happy it’s over. It’s been three very heavy and demanding weeks,” said Pogacar, who took no risk through the Bordeaux vineyards during the time trial.
“We drove hard from morning to night, every day. Yesterday (Friday) I was not very motivated, you end up losing motivation after three weeks.
“I was like today (Saturday) ‘Come on, let’s go’. But hey, it wasn’t my fastest day on a bike and then the strongest rider won.
“I am always very happy with my result and the way my day went.”
The UAE rider beat rivals in the opening time trials and mountain stages, taking a total of three stage wins in a dominant performance.
This was in stark contrast to last year, when Pogacar only took the lead in the overall standings in the final time trial when his Slovenian compatriot Primoz Roglic broke down on the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles.
This time, Pogacar was the favorite and he held up well, although he benefited from the failure of his main rival with Roglic who retired before the eighth stage following a crash earlier in the race.
The accidents also excluded the 2018 champion Geraint Thomas as well as his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Tao Geoghegan Hart, winner of the Giro d’Italia 2020.
Just like last year, Pogacar won the white jersey for the best under-25 rider as well as the polka dot jersey for the mountain classification.
After the Slovenian’s superb race at Grand Bornand during the eighth stage, his challengers found themselves in the race for second place.
That day, he set off on his own in the Col de Romme, the penultimate ascent of the day, to get away from all his rivals in a long-term movement reminiscent of the races of the 1980s to take the yellow jersey.
He then steadily increased his advantage and only struggled once on the slopes of an overheated Mont Ventoux when he was briefly left behind by Vingegaard.
Riding with the poise of a veteran, Pogacar wasted no time that day and beat Vingegaard and Carapaz in both finishes at the top of the Pyrenees.
Great Britain’s Mark Cavendish, who tied Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34 stage wins, is set to take the green jersey in the points classification for the second time in his career after 2011, alongside Australia’s Michael Matthews in second place.
His colleague sprint specialist Andre Greipel announced before the stage that he would retire at the end of the year, the German having won 11 stages on the circuit between 2011 and 2016.