As for the overall race, it would be wrong to say that this stage is the last chance for anyone to have any impact - crosswinds are a possibility on upcoming stages and there's the time trial in Marseille on the penultimate day - but it's true that this looks crucial.
Froome seemingly happy to have one less rider to contend with in a very open final few stages of the Tour.
The 2017 Tour de France concludes on the streets of Paris on Sunday.
An 18 kilometres descent will set the table for the final summit finish of the Tour, the Col D'Izoard, a climb that has launched victories to legendary names such as Fausto Coppi, Louison Bobet and Eddy Merckx. "Certainly a lot better than I did in the Pyrenees, so that's a good sign. Peter last year was everywhere, Barguil this year has been everywhere the whole Tour", LeMond, who is on the Tour as an analyst for Eurosport, said in his daily talk with Reuters. Aru, the tall and skinny star, appeared to be the next after his early stage win on La Planche des Belles Filles and two days in the yellow jersey.
Burned by the scorching sun and with veins bulging, Poljanski's photo lays bare the daily rigors endured by these fiercest of competitors.
The room for margin is still a notably narrow one but Froome remains on top of his game, in the lead and Sky - once again - proved yesterday to be the strongest team on the climbs.
Defending champion Froome was first caught at the end of a split caused by French team AG2R-La Mondiale, who continued to press the pedals when the race leader suffered a mechanical problem shortly before the key climb of the day. "But I prefer to get the (polkadot) jersey and one (stage) win". Aru and Alberto Contador in particular struggled on Wednesday―if Sky play their cards right, the two could take another beating.
Froome said: "Tomorrow up the Izoard, it'll be just about the legs".
Colombian Rigoberto Uran took second place for six bonus seconds while Froome pipped Frenchman Romain Bardet to the line for third.
He dropped two places to seventh with Briton Simon Yates, the leading young rider, moving up to sixth, just a second ahead of Martin.
"I felt quite in control", Froome said.
The pace of the men of Matthews has distanced Kittel, winner of five stages in this Tour, shortly after the departure of le Puy-en-Velay.