- Associated Press - Sunday, July 14, 2013

MONT VENTOUX, France — British rider Chris Froome showed why he remains the overwhelming Tour de France favorite by winning Sunday’s grueling 15th stage up to Mont Ventoux to extend his lead over main rival Alberto Contador.

Froome attacked about two-thirds of the way up the mammoth 13-mile Ventoux, and his acceleration was too much for two-time former champion Contador. The Spaniard dropped back and finished about 1 minute, 40 seconds behind.

Colombian Nairo Quintana was second, 29 seconds behind as tens of thousands of people crammed the roadside on Bastille Day — France’s National Day.

The win means Froome effectively made up the time he lost on Friday’s sprint stage, when Contador caught him with a surprise attack. He leads Dutchman Bauke Mollema by 4 minutes, 14 seconds and Contador by 4:25.

The longest stage of the race took riders over 151 miles from Givors in the winemaking Rhone Valley and ended in the Provence region.

Ventoux is one of the most famed climbs in the Tour’s 110-year history. Britain’s Tom Simpson collapsed and died on it during the 1967 Tour.

Froome raised his right arm in the air when he crossed the line for his second stage win of the race after winning a mountain stage in the Pyrenees on Stage 8 with a similarly decimating attack.

“It was incredible today, incredible. This is the biggest victory of my career,” Froome said. “I didn’t imagine this, this climb is so historical. It means so much to this race, especially being the 100th edition. I really can’t believe this.”

A nine-man breakaway group, including sprint champion Peter Sagan and French veteran Sylvain Chavanel, led early in the race. Sagan picked up more valuable points in his quest to win the green jersey for the second straight year, extending his already massive lead over Brit Mark Cavendish, the 2011 Tour sprint champion.

Reputed to be one of cycling’s showmen, Sagan lifted his front wheel and did a wheelie, followed by a salute to the crowd in a rare moment of frivolity on an otherwise difficult day.

The small group of front-runners split open on Ventoux, leaving Chavanel alone in front, and with about 9 miles of climbing still to go. Froome, meanwhile, only had two Sky teammates — Australian Richie Porte and Britain’s Peter Kennaugh — to help him.

Andy Schleck, the 2010 Tour champion, was dropped straight away while the 36-year-old Cadel Evans, who won the 2011 Tour, also faded, as did Chavenel.

However, the Movistar team looked full of energy, with Rui Costa of Portugal and Quintana surging ahead.

Quintana had attacked Froome four times on the last climb in the Pyrenean mountains on Stage 9 up to Bagneres-de-Bigorre, but had not been able to beat him.

Quintana zoomed uphill, overtook Jan Bakelants, Chavanel and Spaniard Mikel Nieve to move into the lead with about 6 miles to go, with Nieve tucking in on his wheel. Nieve finished the stage in third spot, 1:23 back.

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