Riders start 'most feared' stage in Tour de France

Geraint Thomas

Stephane Mahe/Reuters BORA-Hansgrohe team rider Pawel Poljanski of Poland cleans his eyes after police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

After a spray was used by officers, it appeared to get into the eyes of several riders, with world champion Peter Sagan also among those affected.

Farmers protesting about the loss of rights for agricultural land in the Aude region blocked the road with bales of hay and around 50 sheep some 26 kilometers (16 miles) into the day's ride from Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon in the Pyrenees. Video from the scene is included at the bottom of the page: it was chaos for a few minutes, but police acted quickly and efficiently and helped the riders across.

Nairo Quintana of Team MoviStar won Stage 17 of the Tour de France as overall leader Geraint Thomas gained further time on his yellow jersey rivals. Most farmers here rely on European Union financial aid to get by, and if they lose this classification, they fear they will go out of business.

Stage 16 resumed after a 15-minute delay.

The race was stopped completely as riders recieved medical treatment from doctors.

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Now here was a something that really was particular to French culture - the French love a protest, let's be honest, and particularly so during a Tour de France - but it was not directed at his riders.

Froome sits second in the general classification, 1 minute, 39 seconds behind Sky teammate Geraint Thomas.

"I just felt my throat and nose were burning, eyes were burning afterward", Froome said. He had been 57.2 kilometres from the finish and in the lead of the 218km-long stage at the time of the crash.

Belgian cyclist Philippe Gilbert posted an image online of his leg following the race, and we mean it when we say it is truly disgusting. "The riders' job is extremely risky, they are taking risks every day, people should not block the road, no matter what causes they are fighting for".

"I was not affected because I was not in the first 10 of the group", he said.

Race organizers have struggled to deal with angry fans protesting Froome's participation.

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