Chris Froome assured of Tour de France title despite Nairo Quintana's heroics on Alpe-d'Huez
Chris Froome clung on to effectively seal a second Tour de France title despite Nairo Quintana's nerve-shredding ascent of Alpe-d'Huez.
Froome, the 2013 champion, led nearest rival Quintana (Movistar) by two minutes 38 seconds entering the 110.5-kilometres 20th stage from Modane Valfrejus.
The Team Sky leader's advantage was cut dramatically by the Colombian climber on the 13.8km finishing ascent and its 21 hairpin bends.
But Quintana ran out of road and trailed by 1min 12secs ahead of Sunday's ceremonial finish in Paris, where Froome will stand atop the podium for a second time.
"I knew I had 2:38 to play with but at some moments it was hard to believe I'd hang on," Froome told France 2.
"It's harder to say if this was harder than 2013, but every day was flat out, it was very hard.
"Next year I'll come back and renew the rivalry with Nairo. He's a great prospect, has a bright future, a great talent who races correctly, making his race at the right moment."
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) won the stage, with Quintana second, 18 seconds behind and Froome one minute 38 seconds adrift of the Frenchman in fourth.
Quintana felt the Tour was lost on the second stage to Zeeland, where he was caught behind a crash and conceded 1:28 to Froome.
Quintana said: "I gave it everything. I lost the Tour in the first week when my team struggled with crashes. I lost a minute and a half and that's what cost me the Tour."
It was a hard fought title for Froome, who has been subject to innuendo and interrogations in the 102nd Tour after a victory based on a dominant display on stage 10 to La Pierre-Saint-Martin in the Pyrenees.
The 30-year-old had endured similar scrutiny in winning the 100th Tour and first since Lance Armstrong was stripped of his record seven titles.
The performance-enhancing drug use of Armstrong and his contemporaries in the EPO era created a climate of suspicion around cycling, but Froome insists he races clean and there is no evidence to the contrary.
Froome was doused in urine, spat at and "attacked from every angle" on and off the bike.
Television footage appeared to show he had been spat on again on Saturday.
Froome was lauded by Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford.
"It was a bit close in the end but I think Chris has shown real mettle and what he is all about in this race," Brailsford said on ITV4.
"I don't think many people get to see what we see every day. He's a deserved winner and a credit to Britain.
"Chris is the most unbelievable competitor and polite, nice guy off the bike but on the bike he's the most resilient character.
"I don't think I've ever met anybody like him. He's perfect for the job, as it were. He deserves more credit than he gets.
"The way he puts up with the abuse he gets, he's so composed. A true champion. Britain doesn't have many champions like this fella."