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Sports

Riblon wins first Tour de France stage for hosts

Frenchman Christophe Riblon has ended a stage-winning drought for the hosts in this year's Tour de France. Yellow jersey Chris Froome extended his lead despite being penalized for topping up his sugar levels.

Riblon's chance of winning Stage 18 of the Tour appeared to be at an end when he slid off the road during a dangerous descent on the Col de Sarennes.

However, he managed to hold on and overtake US rider Tejay van Garderen within the last two kilometers (1.25 miles) before putting in a burst of speed. Riblon then went on to win the stage by 59 seconds.

There was relief from home fans, who had feared the Tour might be the first since 1999 not to feature any French winners. The victory - at a mountain top finish on L'Alpe d'Huez - came on the stage of the tour deemed to have the most difficult climbs, also known as the Queen stage.

"To raise my arms aloft at L'Alpe d'Huez is incredible," said Riblon. "I can't believe it! I didn't think I was going to catch him, it was only my sporting director who kept me going, telling me that Tejay was going to crack."

The stage win was the second Tour de France win of Riblon's career, coming exactly three years to the day after his victory at Ax-Trois-Domaines, in the Pyrenees.

Race leader Chris Froome had an even tighter grip on the Tour, with his Spanish rival Alberto Contador falling further behind.

Kenyan-born Briton Froome had suffered from low blood sugar level ascending the Alpe d'Huez towards the end of the race. He was penalized for sending his Australian teammate Richie Porte back to the team car to fetch him a helping of sugar-rich power gels.

Froome was given a 20-second penalty for the move, with feeding being forbidden in the last 20 kilometers of such stages. Despite that, Froome extended his lead to 5 minutes11 seconds.

rc/hc (AP, AFP, Reuters)