BRIANCON, France (AP) — Speeding downhill at 75 kph (45 mph) on unprotected Alpine roads, Tour de France rookie Primoz Roglic scaled the race's highest peak and then barreled down the other side while holding off the competition on the famed Galibier climb to win Stage 17 on Wednesday.
Chris Froome consolidated his overall lead as Fabio Aru lost touch with the three-time champion's group on the punishing gradients of the Galibier.
Froome finished just over a minute after Roglic in a group with Rigoberto Uran and Romain Bardet, who climbed to second and third overall. Aru dropped from second to fourth.
Aru couldn't keep up with Froome's group on the Galibier climb, falling behind as Bardet and Irish rider Dan Martin accelerated. Mouth open, the Sicilian repeatedly labored his way back to them until a final burst of speed toward the top from Bardet left Aru behind for good.
Bardet, with Froome, Uran, French rider Warren Barguil and Mikel Landa zoomed down the long descent from the top together, never slowing to make sure that Aru could not catch them.
Aru is now 53 seconds behind Froome overall. Uran and Bardet trail the leader by 27 seconds.
"I felt good," Froome said. "We saw Aru was in difficulty."
Froome was greeted at the finish by French President Emmanuel Macron, who followed the stage in a car with the race director.
Another tough day of climbing awaits Thursday with a mountain-top finish on the Col d'Izoard. If the overall standings remain as close as they are now, the final time trial on Saturday could be decisive in determining the podium places at the finish in Paris the next day.
Roglic, a former ski jumper from Slovenia, sped away from his own four-main group, which included two-time champion Alberto Contador, with 5 kilometers (3 miles) still left to climb on the Galibier. He reached the top, through barren slopes of scree and patchy grass, and then raced down alone over the last 28 kilometers (17 miles) to the finish at the Serre Chevalier ski station.
"It's unbelievable," Roglic said. "A really crazy stage."