L'ALPE D'HUEZ, France — Tour de France leader Chris Froome is so dominant that even when he loses time for eating an energy bar, he extends his lead.
The British rider was hit by a 20-second penalty for taking an energy bar from a teammate near the end of the 18th stage Thursday. But he still increased his advantage over main rival Alberto Contador to more than 5 minutes.
Christophe Riblon became the first Frenchman to win a stage this year, while Froome edged closer to becoming the second British rider to win the Tour after Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins last year.
Contador tried to gain some time back, attacking aggressively on a downhill, but in the end Froome did it for him when he grabbed an energy bar from teammate Richie Porte with about 2 miles to go.
"I was really going into a little bit of a sugar low then," Froome said. "I don't know if it helped me."
Riders are forbidden to take food within 3 miles of the stage end.
"That's one of those things that come with the race," said Froome, whose teammate also got a 20-second penalty.
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.
In this final week, there has been feverish media speculation about Froome's dominance, prompting heated debate on social media, cycling blogs and mainstream media. It prompted his Sky team to give assurances that he is racing clean.