Former champion Vincenzo Nibali was doubtful for the remainder of the Tour de France after a collision, allegedly with a police motorbike, on Alpe d'Huez left him nursing a "suspected broken vertebra" in his back.
Stage 20 on Saturday is the individual time trial from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette (31km), and this is where Froome, Dumoulin and Thomas will fight it out for yellow.
Spewing yellow smoke, the flare appeared to be thrown over Team Sky's riders, massed on the right-hand side of the peloton around Geraint Thomas in the yellow jersey, before bouncing across the road without bringing down anyone.
Sky are unpopular with parts of the cycling community in France, where their domination - winning five of the last six Tours - is reminiscent to that of disgraced Lance Armstrong's U.S. Postal team in the early 2000s.
Froome and Dumoulin both competed at the Giro d'Italia in May, finishing first and second respectively. I don't know what to say.
"My back hurts. I had trouble breathing and now I don't feel well standing".
Alaphilippe Stuyven and Thomas featured in an early breakaway that built a lead over the main pack of nearly 20 minutes in the 14th stage, although none of the 32 escapees were a threat in the general classification.
Egan Bernal leads Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome up the Alpe d’Huez on Thursday
Thomas said he was more surprised by his own campaign, which has so far included two consecutive stage victories in the Alps, than the efforts of the duo working toward a double that has proved unattainable since 1998.
"I can be happy for sure now". But the Dutchman admits that if Chris Froome (Team Sky) delivers another Finestre-like performance, he could be helpless to stop him. "Then we'd look pretty stupid", Thomas said.
After an intense stage 12, the Welshman admitted he was not expecting to win a second successive day, opening up a lead of one minute, 39 seconds to Froome.
"I didn't actually notice it", he said.
Explaining the incident post-stage, Nibali said: "The road became narrower and there were no barriers".
Only Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who is fourth overall now, 2 minutes and 38 seconds behind Team Sky's Thomas, gained some time on the main contenders when he attacked in the final climb.
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One dropped shot put him back to 5-under, but he got up and down brilliantly at the last to stay on that mark. Both are at even par, six strokes off the lead, which is also good news.
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