Protest delays Tour de France; cyclists accidentally tear-gassed in eyes

Thomas retains yellow jersey after crash sees Yates miss out on stage win

Thomas retains yellow jersey after crash sees Yates miss out on stage win

Defending champion Chris Froome nearly crashed out of the Tour de France - after being knocked off his bike when an overzealous policeman mistook him for a fan on stage 17 Wednesday.

Team Sky said there was a miscommunication after the stage while the four-time champion rode back to his bus.

The defending champion, who was looking to win a record-equalling fifth Tour, cracked two kilometres from the finish in a 16km punishing climb up to the Col du Portet on Wednesday.

Geraint Thomas was among the Tour de France riders whose stage 16 was disrupted by protesters on Tuesday and the Team Sky man hopes the remainder of the race will pass without incident. I've won the last three Grand Tours I've done now.

Starting the 17th stage with a deficit of 1min 39sec to Thomas, the Kenyan-born Briton showed rare glimpses of weakness on his way to finishing almost a minute behind his Welsh teammate at the final mountaintop finish of the race at Saint-Lary-Soulan won by Colombian rival Nairo Quintana of Movistar.

Yellow jersey-bearing Thomas latched onto his wheel immediately as did Primoz Roglic, but four-time Tour victor Froome had no response other than to grit his teeth and stick his tongue out.

"As soon as you get carried away, it's when it goes downhill", the two-time Olympic track champion said.

The climber from Boyaca proved to be too strong for his competitors during the 65-kilometer mountain stage of which 42 were uphill.

The Welshman, appropriately enough after a stage that began with a grid start, is now in pole position to win this year's Tour, while his erstwhile leader is scrabbling to hold on to a podium finish and a share of the champagne.

"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".

He took third place behind Colombian Quintana and Ireland's Dan Martin, but gained time over Froome, Dumoulin and fourth-placed Primoz Roglic.

"I don't [feel exhausted from the Giro], I'm still riding strong, so I'm happy with my Tour so far". But he appeared to be close to conceding this title attempt. The Belgian got back on his bike after disappearing in the ravine for a couple of minutes. "(Thomas) has ridden such an unbelievable race, he deserves to be in yellow and fingers crossed he holds it now until Paris". But the outcome at the summit of the Col du Portet may also herald a changing of the guard for Sky.

In the bid to clear the road and detain the protesters police sprayed tear gas, which then drifted into the peloton and led to riders having to visit the medical vehicle to wash their eyes out.

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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