Despite yet another climbing display that put Sky team leader Bradley Wiggins in the shade, Chris Froome insists his time to win the yellow jersey can wait.
"I'd love to. It'd be an absolute dream for me to try and win the Tour, but that's obviously something for the future," said Froome.
How long Froome is willing to wait for that chance is the question on everyone's lips at the Tour de France. On the last big mountain day on this year's race Wiggins took a step closer to becoming Britain's first winner of the world's biggest bike race. If, as expected, he keeps his lead through the remaining three stages and stands atop the podium in Paris on Sunday, Wiggins will owe a debt of gratitude to his entire Sky team, but especially Froome. The Kenyan-born Briton has been Wiggins' last support man on the epic climbs of the race, on which he has often appeared far more comfortable than his team leader.
On Thursday Froome was itching to chase down Spaniard Alejandro Valverde in the final kilometers of a final, 15 km climb to the finish, in a bid to win the stage as well as widen their overall advantage. But after he coasted ahead, Wiggins appeared unable to follow. In the end they finished 19 seconds down on Valverde to go into Friday's 18th stage, on which Wiggins's lead is unlikely to come under attack, first and second overall. Froome is 2:05 behind Wiggins. Wiggins was quick to acknowledge the role Froome's impressive pace-setting in the mountains has played.
"He's been absolutely solid the whole Tour for me," said the Englishman.
Since winning stage seven on the race's first hilltop finish then finishing second in the stage nine time trial, Froome has looked Wiggins' biggest rival. Wiggins admitted Thursday: "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out he's better in our camp than someone else's. He's an incredible climber."
Having shown his capabilities at the 2011 Tour of Spain, where he finished runner-up and one place ahead of Wiggins, Froome has been hailed as the next big Grand Tour contender. But he is happy to wait.
"I do the job to the best of my ability every day. I don't have any regrets," said Froome.
Asked how long he would be happy to play the support role for Wiggins, he added: "For as long as he wants to. For as long as the team wants to. That's the way teams work. As long as that's my job to do, then I'll do that. If the team wants me to go for the win, I'll do that also."
Wiggins said recently he would gladly "help" Froome in any bid for the 2013 yellow jersey.
Froome says he is simply concentrating on the days ahead and the "unbelievable" scenario of finishing on the podium in Paris.
"I think we've done a pretty good job until now, so hopefully we'll take it all the way," said Froome. "We wanted the yellow jersey on a Team Sky rider's back, and we've got that so we've done exactly what we've wanted. I've been watching the Tour since I was a teenager, just to be here and be in this position is already dream come true. To be on the podium, would be unbelievable for me."