Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins said he almost cried as he allowed himself for the first time to contemplate victory when his closest...

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BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France — Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins said he almost cried as he allowed himself for the first time to contemplate victory when his closest rival, Vincenzo Nibali, faltered on the last mountain stage.

Spain’s Alejandro Valverde won Thursday’s 89-mile stage in the Pyrenees to the Peyragudes ski resort. Wiggins was third, just behind Team Sky teammate Chris Froome.

Wiggins, who beat Nibali by more than two minutes to win an earlier time trial, would become the first British winner of the race that started in 1903.

“It was the first time in the whole of the race that I thought I’d won the Tour,” Wiggins said. “There were almost tears in my eyes.”

Wiggins has a 2-minute, 5-second lead over Froome in the overall classification. Froome hasn’t challenged the advantage of his fellow Briton during the race and twice slowed down for Wiggins to catch up.

Nibali, an Italian with the Liquigas team, is 2:41 behind Wiggins in third. There is a 138-mile flat stage Friday between Blagnac and Brive-La-Gaillarde, and a time trial Saturday before the final ceremonial ride to Paris on Sunday.

Froome followed Wiggins and then set the pace himself to gain more time on Nibali.

“We said, ‘He’s nailed, he’s finished,’ ” Wiggins said. “That was an incredible feeling.”

Nibali signaled as much.

“Wiggins was very strong,” Nibali said. “He will be a deserved winner.”