An emotional Bradley Wiggins allowed himself to contemplate becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France after enhancing his hold on the yellow jersey on Thursday's final mountain stage.
Wiggins was second in the Tour's prologue and has remained in the top two of the general classification since, taking the maillot jaune on stage seven and wearing it for a 10th day on the 143.5-kilometre 17th stage from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Peyragudes.
Wiggins said: "I feel strange. I don't know what to do at the moment. After everything I've done this year you still have to justify... 'so you might've won the Tour but is it ever going to be remembered for these people not being here?' No-one's actually patted me on the back yet, it's all still in a negative sense."
A formidable showing saw Wiggins remain two minutes five seconds ahead of Team Sky colleague and fellow Briton Chris Froome, whose primary role is to support his compatriot, in second and move 18 seconds further ahead of Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).
With third-placed Nibali, who finished the day 2mins 41secs behind with three days' racing remaining, falling behind as the Britons rode over the Col du Peyresourde en route to the summit at Peyragudes, Wiggins allowed himself to be distracted by thoughts of Paris on Sunday.
The triple Olympic champion said: "At that point, the first time in this whole Tour since I've led this race, I thought 'maybe I've just won the Tour'. That moment I went over with Chris, all the fight went out of the window, everything to do with the performance.
"And that's when it starts getting hard then because you lose concentration. It was an incredible feeling. It really was."
Wiggins has been in imperious form this season, winning the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine stage races.
With Alberto Contador serving a doping ban and Andy Schleck out injured, plus more than 100km of time-trials, Wiggins was highly fancied to beat defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) to victory.
Froome - who some say should lead Team Sky - was seen imploring Wiggins to stay with him in the finale to Peyragudes and the Tour leader is pleased he has the 27-year-old on his side. Wiggins added: "He has been absolutely solid the whole Tour. If he was in an opposing team then you would constantly have that battle all the time."