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Tour de France delayed after protest; cyclists accidentally tear-gassed

By Alex Butler
Tour de France delayed after protest; cyclists accidentally tear-gassed
Team Sky rider Chris Froome of Britain cleans his eyes after tear gas was used by policemen against the farmers who protest on the way of the 16th stage of the 105th edition of the Tour de France cycling race over 218km on Tuesday between Carcassonne and Bagneres-de-Luchon, France. Photo by Yoan Valat/EPA-EFE

July 24 (UPI) -- A group of cyclists were accidentally tear-gassed by police during stage 16 of the 2018 Tour de France Tuesday between Carcassonne and Bagneres-de-Luchon.

The race was delayed after farmers threw hay bales onto the road to block the route. Police officers then used the tear gas to clear the protesters out, but it ended up in the eyes of some of the cyclists. Several of the athletes squirted water into their eyes to clear the remnants of the gas and jumped back on their bikes. Four-time champion Chris Froome and race leader Geraint Thomas were two of the cyclists affected. The delay occurred about 16 miles into the stage.

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A police source told CNN that the farmers organized the protest in order to "be seen" by France minister of agriculture Stephane Tavert. Police also said they stopped the race to avoid other riders being affected by the gas.

The Quick-Step Cycling team documented the sequence, reiterating that police used the tear gas to clear the protesters, but it ended up getting in the eyes of the cyclists.

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The Tour de France Twitter account tweeted a warning to protesters after the delay, saying that if you don't respect the riders you risk a fine and three years of imprisonment.

Quick-Step cyclist Julian Alaphilippe won the stage. Froome is in second place and Tom Dumoulin is in third place. Froome is looking to win his fourth consecutive Tour de France.

Stage 17 is a 65 km trek from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan on Wednesday. The 2018 Tour de France closes with a 115 km ride on Sunday from Houilles to Paris Champs-Elysees.

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