Policeman bizarrely knocks Chris Froome off his bike

Riders clean their eyes after tear gas was used during a farmers protest during Tuesday’s Tour de France 16th stage between Carcassonne and Bagneres-de-Luchon

Riders clean their eyes after tear gas was used during a farmers protest during Tuesday’s Tour de France 16th stage between Carcassonne and Bagneres-de-Luchon

French Julian Alaphilippe of Quick-Step Floors wearing the red polka-dot jersey celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 16th stage of the 105th edition of the Tour de France cycling race.

"I think he's got nearly a two-minute lead on Dumoulin, which I think is a pretty comfortable lot", Froome told reporters after finishing 1:35 behind stage 17 victor Quintana and 48 seconds behind Thomas.

Ahead of stage 17 on Wednesday, described as the most decisive stage in the final week, Thomas maintained his 1min 39sec lead on four-time champion and teammate Chris Froome.Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) is still third at 1:50.

Four-time champion Chris Froome and overall leader Geraint Thomas were among those trying to clear their eyes before resuming the race, according to multiple reports.

A police officer pepper sprays a protester as another protester stands in front of the race director's auto during stage 16 of the Tour de France, a 218-kilometer ride from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon. We don't feel unsafe, it's just unfortunate sometimes but I think everyone is doing the best they can.

Colombian climber Nairo Quintana won the short but extremely hard mountainous stage with a solo attack up the brutal finishing climb to Col du Portet.

"Nairo came with me and went past me".

Froome, 32, had been hoping to join an elite club of five-time winners and become the first cyclist since Marco Pantani, in 1998, to win the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in the same calendar year.

With Thomas increasing his overall lead, the Colombian Egan Bernal finally showing the climbing aptitude that made his selection inevitable and Froome faltering, Team Sky's principal acknowledged that possibility. "We came here with a great team although things did not play out the way we expected".

"But it's the Tour de France, so anything can happen".

King of the Mountains leader Julian Alaphilippe had another fruitful day, chasing Kangert up the first climb of the Category 1 Montee de Peyragudes to add eight points to his tally. "That last climb is possibly the toughest climb in the Tour - 16 kilometers, 2,200 meters (altitude)".

Bales of hay blocked the road 30 kilometers into the 218-kilometer leg from Carcassonne to Bagneres De-Luchon. His team shared a supportive message on Twitter, and so did Team Sky.

"I didn't want him to have a bad day like he did but it just gave me confidence knowing someone of Froomey's stature was struggling, and I just knew I would be able to respond to the attacks". Instead, on arriving back at the bus, he praised the performance of his team-mate Geraint Thomas, admitting he was the stronger rider and vowing to work with him for the rest of the race.

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