L'ALPE D'HUEZ, France (AP) — Christophe Riblon became the first Frenchman to win a Tour de France stage this year and Chris Froome boosted his overall lead despite a late struggle on Thursday's 18th stage.
Riblon caught American Tejay van Garderen with about a mile left on the second ride up L'Alpe d'Huez, one of the Tour's most famed climbs.
Riblon threw his hands up and pumped his fists after clinching the second Tour stage win of his career, three years after winning another mountain trek. Van Garderen finished 59 seconds behind in second, and Italian Moreno Moser was 1:27 behind in third.
"To raise my arms aloft at L'Alpe d'Huez is incredible," Riblon said. "With five kilometers to go I thought I had lost it."
He dedicated the win to his AG2R La Mondiale teammate Jean-Christophe Peraud, who fractured his shoulder in Wednesday's time trial and had to pull out.
"We wanted to end this bad spell," Riblon said.
Froome, 3:18 back in seventh, extended his comfortable lead over his main rival Alberto Contador to more than five minutes with just three stages remaining. He is edging closer to becoming the second British rider to win the Tour, following Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins' success last year.
The 107-mile route from Gap to L'Alpe d'Huez featured two HC ascents of L'Alpe d'Huez — meaning they were so tough they were beyond classification, known as Hors Categorie.
"It wasn't easy," Froome said. "The whole team worked very hard to keep the yellow jersey."
Contador was dropped by Froome on the second ascent of L'Alpe d'Huez and finished 11th. The two-time former champion just held on to second place overall, but 5:11 behind Froome.
Colombian climber Nairo Quintana moved up to third overall and 21 seconds behind Contador.
With about 4 miles to go on the last climb, Froome launched one of his trademark attacks. About a mile later, he attacked again and only Quintana could keep up with him as Contador dropped away.
But then Froome called for assistance with about 2 miles to go with what looked to be bike trouble. No team car could get up to help him because of fans in the way. So teammate Richie Porte gave him what looked like an energy bar to eat.
"I asked for some sugar," Froome said. "Going twice up L'Alpe d'Huez is difficult."
Van Garderen and Riblon were part of a nine-man breakaway.
"This is a reward for me," Riblon said. "It's the fourth time I've been in a breakaway on this race."
They were chased by two riders from Contador's Saxo-Tinkoff team, Nicolas Roche and Sergio Paulinho, as they tried to increase the pressure on Froome's Sky teammates. Roche dropped off as they approached the first big ascent of the day.
Froome and Contador waited for the other one to show his hand. But neither did at first.
Van Garderen and Riblon reached the top of the next climb together, the Col de Sarenne, and braced themselves for a long and razor-thin descent.