By ANDREW DAMPF
AP Sports Writer
SAINT-LARY-SOULAN, France (AP) – The most feared stage of this year's Tour de France is underway.
Wearing the yellow jersey, Geraint Thomas started in “pole position” in a Formula One-like grid format that is being used in the Tour for the first time in Stage 17's sprint through the Pyrenees.
The top 20 riders in the standings started first on Wednesday, while lower-ranked riders were forced to begin in four more groups further behind.
Thomas holds a 1 minute, 39 second lead over Sky teammate Chris Froome, with Tom Dumoulin third, 1:50 back.
The 65-kilometer (40-mile) route from Bagneres-de-Luchon features three grueling climbs and hardly a stretch of flat road.
The unprecedented finish on the Col du Portet above Saint-Lary-Soulan at an altitude of 2,215 meters (7,267 feet) marks the highest point of this year's race, and organizers rate it as the second hardest climb in Tour history after Mont Ventoux.
The three-week race ends Sunday in Paris.
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