Tour chief slams farmers as Thomas suffers from gas

Tour chief slams farmers as Thomas suffers from gas

Tour chief slams farmers as Thomas suffers from gas

Thomas still leads his Team Sky mate and defending champion Chris Froome by 1 minute, 39 seconds and Dutchman Tom Dumoulin by 1 minutes, 50 seconds going into Wednesday's 17th stage, a brutal 65-km, up-and-down trek from Bagneres-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan.

The 218-kilometer (136-mile) Stage 16 from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon starts slowly with only two small climbs in the first 100 kilometers.

The Tour de France took an eye-watering turn on Tuesday when a protest by farmers led to several cyclists inadvertently getting pepper spray from police blown into their eyes.

Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford blames the French cycling culture for fans abusing his Tour de France leaders Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome.

Froome, race leader Geraint Thomas, and world champion Peter Sagan appeared to be among those affected by the chemical, and were treated with eye drops.

At the end of the day, if you want to host... the Tour de France is promoted as the world's greatest sporting annual event, and if that's what you want to host and you want the best worldwide riders to come and take part in an global event then maybe treat them with a bit more respect. "But I think quite a lot of riders were in a similar situation".

"I've said it before, but it's the first time I've raced for three weeks, as a GC (general classification) leader so it's a bit of an unknown", said Thomas, after he and Froome trailed home over 18 minutes behind Spanish stage victor Omar Fraile in Mende.

"Just felt throat and nose were burning, eyes were burning afterwards".

"I'm not sure they would like to have seen their football players being spat at [the FIFA World Cup] in Russia", Brailsford said.

Brailsford, who has been questioned by a British parliamentary inquiry following allegations Sky had breached ethical guidelines by abusing the legal use of therapeutic use exemptions for their riders, said he did not expect the abuse to stop.

"With the headwind, the gas came back to the peloton.

We've been working for a while on trying to do something, and when you come that close it's disappointing".

"We are not going to lock the riders in a stadium or a tennis court", Tour director Christian Prudhomme said.

"The road should remain free, we are not going to lock the riders in a stadium or on a tennis court", he said.

Belgian classics specialist Greg Van Avermaet said race organizers made a good decision by neutralizing the stage, allowing the peloton to resume competing after three kilometers.

The race was delayed after farmers threw hay bales onto the road to block the route.

But Froome, now 1min 39sec behind Thomas in the overall standings going into three consecutive days in the Pyrenees, said he would be happy to forego all the glory if it means Thomas wins the race for Sky.

While incidents of actual violence - such as the fan that slapped Froome on Alpe d'Huez - are of concern, Brailsford said Sky had learned to tune out the boos.

Froome is attempting to match the record of five Tour victories shared by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

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