'My eyes are burning': Tour chaos as riders hit by tear gas

France Cycling Tour de France

Chris Froome treats his eyes after being affected by the spray

It was a gift, but Alaphilippe didn't care as he cruised to his second stage win of this year's Tour.

Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert crashed earlier in the stage while in the lead, hitting a wall and flipping off his bike but avoiding major injury. I'm not sure they'd have liked their football players being spat at in Russian Federation (at the World Cup). "I was sad for (Yates) but it could have happened to me, too, because I took a lot of risks".

Nonetheless, last week Froome and other Team Sky riders were targeted by a flare, while the four-time champion was reportedly spat at and pushed by road-side spectators.

Froome, who remained in second place overall, 1 minute, 39 seconds behind Sky teammate Thomas, said the effects of the gas did not last long. "Their field is the road, the road is open - we can not lock them in a swimming pool or a stadium or in a tennis court". "The riders' job is extremely unsafe, they are taking risks every day, people should not block the road, no matter what causes they are fighting for".

According to a statement from French authorities in the local Aude department, a small group of 20 activists made the intervention to protest a planned reduction of European Union funding in their area. It was the same descent where Italian rider Fabio Casartelli died during the 1995 Tour. "Just get stuck in and hope for the best, I guess".

But on a day that saw Slovakian Peter Sagan mathematically secure his sixth green jersey for the points competition, the day belonged to Alaphilippe.The 26-year-old Frenchman has spent the past days chasing points to add to his collection for the King of the Mountains' polka dot jersey.

"Froomey said on the radio maybe with four or five km to go that he wasn't feeling super and that gave me confidence", Thomas said.

Yates had a 25 second lead over the top and attacked the descent hard, knowing Alaphilippe's ability to ride downhill fast, but the Mitchelton-Scott man ultimately paid the price when his front wheel came out from underneath him on one of the tight, technical corners. My morale is pretty damaged right now.

Thomas added: "It was certainly unfortunate that it was still lingering around when we came through".

Yates was quickly back on his bike, and followed home Bahrain-Merida's Gorka Izagirre to finish third.

Stage 17 on Wednesday from Bagneres-De Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet in the Pyrenees promises to be even more unpredictable at just 65 kilometers over three grueling climbs, including an uphill finish.

After those accelerations Bardet was, to put it in common parlance, "swinging" and eventually cracked on the final climb to the Portet. "There's definitely going to be some splits".

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