Jonas Vingegaard effectively secured his first Tour de France on the mighty Hautacam leaving the sprinters to lick their lips at the prospect of nicking some glory on Stage 19.
Cycling fans were on the edge of their seat awaiting the latest wheel-to-wheel battle between Vingegaard and defending champion Tadej Pogacar on the last day in the Pyrenees.
And over the first two of three mighty peaks on Stage 18 there was nothing to choose between the two of them - but that all changed on the slopes of the Hautacam when Pogacar finally cracked.
Vingegaard, with the help of team-mate Wout van Aert, dropped the Slovenian and went on to win the stage by over a minute.
And with just three stages remaining - today's flat stage, a 41km time trial and Sunday's processional arrival in Paris - the Dane simply has to stay in the saddle to win yellow for the first time.
There is still Stage 19 to get stuck into in what, on paper at least, looks like it is set up for a sprint, which have been rare on this year's hill-heavy Tour.
Tour de France, Stage 19
Castelnau-Magnoac - Cahors
Friday 22nd July 2022
How to watch
Live on ITV4, Eurosport, Discovery+ & GCN+
|Odds||Jasper Philipsen 11/4, Fabio Jakobsen 4/1, Wout van Aert 11/2, Dylan Groenewegen 8/1|
The calm after the storms - an almost pancake-flat trundle out of Hautes-Pyrenees and finishing in the majestic town of Cahors nestled in a loop of the River Lot.
There are a few lumps and bumps during the 188.3km ride north and a pair of category four climbs – neither longer than 2kms – which are far too short to be much of an inconvenience.
Which means that this is a classic stage for a long-distance breakaway to develop, and a classic stage for the shrinking peloton to reel it in – if, of course, they possess the legs after three wearying days in the Pyrenees.
Given that pure sprint stages have been scarce on the 2022 Tour, the fast men will definitely want to showcase their talents.
Should the teams with sprinters fancy a shot at stage glory, a slight uphill finish at about five percent means it won't be fancied by all the usual contenders.
The Dane has already proved this stage – especially this finish – is right up his alley with victory in Stage 13.
Part of a break which was eventually whittled down to six riders, the Trek-Segafredo star countered a number of attacks on the run in to St Etienne before sprinting clear on a slightly uphill run to the finish.
And that victory came 24 hours after the Tour scaled the iconic Alpe d'Huez; today's stage is 24 hours after the ascent of the iconic Hautacam.
Pedersen has been in the thick of a couple of big sprint finishes – he was third into Nyborg on Stage 2 and third into Foix on Stage 16 – but this looks much more to the liking of the 26-year-old.
The only luck Caleb Ewan has had in the 2022 Tour de France is of the bad variety, but he's still pedalling and in happier times this would have been a stage he might target.
The question is; how much does the Australian have left in the tank after an eventful couple of weeks?
No surprise that most of his misfortune happened on unlucky Stage 13 when he not only crashed but was also fined for taking a tow back into the bunch.
The Pocket Rocket won three stages in this race in 2019, two more a year later, and if he can stay upright and is feeling good, he could be a factor.
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl's Fabio Jakobsen was in tears at the end of Stage 17 when he made the cut by a mere 15 seconds.
The narrative was that the close escape has presented the big Dutchman with the chance to win up the Champs-Elysees on Sunday, the sprint that any sprinter worth his salt would want to win.
But first things first – and that means the prospect of a second stage win into Cahors to add to his stunning triumph in Nyborg on day two.
There are no green jersey games to play – Wout van Aert has long since painted that to his back – which means Quick-Step can concentrate solely on getting their man to the line here, and again in the capital at the weekend.