Juan José Cobo holds a 13-second advantage over Britain's Chris Froome after Daniele Bennati's victory in stage 20 of the Tour of Spain, but the leader is taking nothing for granted heading into Sunday's final stage.
With 32 bonus seconds up for grabs on the 95km run into Madrid, Cobo said he will not be able to relax. "I'd like it to be a party, like the last stage of a Grand Tour normally is for a winner, but that's not going to be possible," the Geox rider Cobo said after Saturday's penultimate stage won by the Italian Daniele Bennati.
"I'm closer than ever to winning, but mathematically it's not over, and Froome has got the right to fight on right until the end."
Team Sky's Froome said he would press Cobo all the way. "I'm going to continue [fighting for overall victory]," he said. "We tried to keep the pressure on Cobo today and once again he didn't crack. But we'll keep trying."
Bennati took stage honours on Saturday, showing solid form ahead of the world championships later this month.
Part of an early break over the mountainous first half of the 185km stage from Bilbao to Vitoria, Bennati was still strong enough to take a sprint of around 80 riders ahead of the Italians Enrico Gasparotto and Damiano Caruso.
"I'm pleased to win today because it's the last hilly stage of the Tour of Spain and a victory at the end of a three-week race on such a hard day proves my good condition for the world championships," Bennati said.
"On top of that, I made it into the early break and stayed with them over two first-category climbs. If I can do what I did today, I believe I can do well at the worlds."
The 30-year-old Leopard Trek rider said that leading the Vuelta in the first week and his stage win on Saturday also confirmed he was fully recovered from a bad crash in the Tour of Romandie in early May.
Result of 20th stage of the Tour of Spain from Bilbao to Vitoria
1 Daniele Bennati (It/Leopard) 4hr 39min 20sec
2 Enrico Gasparotto (It/Astana) same time
3 Damiano Caruso (It/Liquigas)
4 Sep Vanmarcke (Bel/Garmin)
5 Koen de Kort (Neth/Skil-Shimano)
6 Manuele Mori (It/Lampre)
7 Davide Malacarne (It/Quick-Step)
8 Kristof Vandewalle (Bel/Quick-Step)
9 Bauke Mollema (Neth/Rabobank)
10 Eros Capecchi (It/Liquigas)
1 Juan José Cobo (Sp/Geox) 82hr 38min 32sec
2 Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +13
3 Bradley Wiggins (GB/Team Sky) +1:39
4 Bauke Mollema (Neth/Rabobank) +2:03
5 Denis Menchov (Rus/Geox) +3:48
6 Maxime Monfort (Bel/Leopard) +4:13
7 Vincenzo Nibali (It/Liquigas) +4:31
8 Jurgen Van den Broeck (Bel/Omega Pharma-Lotto) +4:45
9 Daniel Moreno (Sp/Katusha) +5:20
10 Mikel Nieve (Sp/Euskaltel) +5:33