Tour riders sprayed with tear gas amid protest by farmers

Team Sky leader Froome, a four-time champion, finished the stage in eighth place at 1min 35sec behind Colombian victor Nairo Quintana and 48secs behind teammate and overall leader Geraint Thomas.

Yellow jersey holder Geraint Thomas (Sky) crossed the finish line almost nine minutes in arrears after yet another stage in which his race lead did not come under threat.

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.

Four-time champion Chris Froome was among riders who had their eyes treated for tear gas or pepper spray aimed at the peloton when a farmer's protest interrupted the 16th stage of the Tour de France on Tuesday.

The Tour de France is not something people in Britain ever used to take much notice of until Mark Cavendish started winning loads of stages, then Bradley Wiggins won the whole thing and Chris Froome won it three times- now we can't get enough of the damn thing!

While Froome faded late in the day, the indefatigable Thomas strengthened his grip on the yellow jersey and is the red-hot favourite to be on the top step of the podium in Paris on Sunday.

Sprinter Fernando Gaviria also claimed two stage victories earlier in the race in his first Tour. "I was seven minutes down and so I thought they might let me go", Martin said of his attack.

"Froomey said on the radio (at) maybe 5k or 4k to go that he wasn't feeling super", Thomas said. Dumoulin rode clear with yellow jersey Thomas and fourth overall Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo).

Colombia's Nairo Quintana, left, and Poland's Rafal Majka climb Col du Portet pass during the seventeenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 65 kilometers (40.4 miles) with start in Bagneres-de-Luchon and finish in Saint-Lary-Soulan, Col du Portet pass, France, Wednesday July 25, 2018.

"We feel safe. Obviously on some of the climbs not everyone's our fans but we don't feel threatened", Thomas said.

The events of stage 16 did highlight again, though, just how vulnerable the riders are.

It was in the same descent that Italian Fabio Casartelli crashed and died in the 1995 Tour de France.

But the day belonged to Alaphilippe, who has spent the past 10 days chasing points to add to his collection for the King of the Mountains' polka dot jersey.

"Spectators are becoming more and more demanding and they want to see real excitement", says Luca Guercilena, general manager of the Trek-Segafredo team. Sky said Froome was not injured.

"On a 200-kilometer stage, riders probably won't attack on the first climb".

  • Steve Townsend