French cyclist Christophe Riblon's dramatic victory here Thursday delivered the first stage win for the host country in the 2013 Tour de France, while Britain's Chris Froome kept the overall lead with three days left in the race.
Stage 18 loomed as historic even before the start, as it was the first time in the 100 years of the Tour that riders had to make the grueling climb to the top of Alpe d'Huez twice in the same day.
Riblon, 32, trailed U.S. rider Tejay van Garderen by 45 seconds just 5 kilometers from the finish on the second ascent, but the young American ran out of steam and the French cyclist breezed past him 2 kilometers from the summit.
Colombia's Nairo Quintana, making his first appearance in the Tour de France, vaulted from fifth to third place in the General Classification with a strong performance on Thursday.
Spain's Joaquim "Purito" Rodriguez also climbed in the GC standings, from sixth to fifth, while countryman Alberto Contador, a two-time winner of the Tour, remained in the second spot.
Contador, who trails Froome by 5 minutes and 11 seconds, was not in position to take advantage Thursday when the yellow jersey ran into some trouble on the second climb of Alpe d'Huez. EFE