Andy Schleck planned to go on the attack today in his bid for Tour de France glory.
The 25-year-old Team Saxo Bank rider trailed two-time champion Alberto Contador (Astana) by eight seconds ahead of today's 174km 17th stage from Pau to the Col du Tourmalet.
The fabled 18.6km hors categorie (beyond category) Col du Tourmalet represents Schleck's final opportunity to overtake Contador ahead of Sunday's finish in Paris.
The Luxembourg rider said yesterday: "Right now the Tour is coming to an end and we're running out of time.
"There is only one chance left. I've got to try everything because I want to win this. There's only one way and that's climbing the Tourmalet."
Wet weather was forecast for today's stage, but Schleck was not concerned.
"Tourmalet is Tourmalet, in sunshine or in rain," he said. "I like Tourmalet because it's steady, it's hard and if you're not a climber you don't go up there. I've always said I believe that the guy who has the yellow tomorrow will be in yellow in Paris -- and I still believe that."
However vital today's stage is, Schleck knows Saturday's 52km time-trial from Bordeaux to Pauillac is also crucial to the overall standings.
Schleck concedes Contador is better against the clock, but he insists he is much improved -- even since the 8.9km prologue in Rotterdam where he finished 122nd, 42 seconds and 116 places behind the Spaniard.
"In Rotterdam I was really bad but now with three weeks' racing behind us it's a different story," said Schleck.
"I know I need to be in yellow for the start ramp for the time-trial to have a chance to win this Tour.
"If I don't start in yellow, I won't beat Alberto. But I cannot tell you how much (time) I need."
Another rider targeting success in Saturday's time-trial is Britain's Bradley Wiggins.
The Team Sky leader, who finished fourth in last year's Tour but lies 21st in the overall standings this year, believes a stage victory in Pauillac would be a bright spot in a disappointing Tour.
Ireland's Nicolas Roche lies in 18th position and will do all he can to regain a spot in the top 15, saying: "Thomas Lofkvist (Team Sky) is just 25 seconds in front of me, but I would need to take three and a half minutes out of Carlos Sastre to jump up to 15th place. Sastre won the Tour in 2008 and is a very good climber. The Cervelo team leader is without a stage win in this year's Tour and will see Thursday's stage as his last chance of getting one. I will have my work cut out for me.
"I know that if I start to worry about Sastre or others, and whether they are climbing well or not, I am likely to panic and lose time rather than gain.
"The Tourmalet is a long climb, around 35km to the summit, with some really steep sections, so it will take well over an hour to get to the top.
"I have decided to ride up the mountain concentrating on my own performance rather than anyone else's. I will see where I stand at the top."
Meanwhile, disgraced former Tour winner Floyd Landis, riding without a team in the Cascade Cycling Classic in Oregon, spoke briefly about finally coming clean and airing the new allegations against Lance Armstrong that touched off the federal probe.
"It was about doing what was right," Landis said. "It was about doing what allowed me to live my life OK with me."