French farmers bring Tour de France to standstill with protest

Britain's Chris Froome strains as he passes through a tunnel after loosing contact with the group of leaders during the seventeenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 65 kilometers with start in Bagneres-de Luchon and finish

The Tour de France 16th stage re-started on Tuesday after a brief halt when national gendarmes used tear gas near the peloton to break up a protest by farmers.

Froome said he was grateful that the race had been neutralised to allow riders to recover.

The incident occurred on stage 16 of the 135-mile route from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon, roughly 18 miles into the race.

Unfortunately, the gas also affected a number of riders, with Yellow Jersey Geraint Thomas, reigning champions Chris Froome and world champion Peter Sagan among those hit.

Dan Martin finished second while Thomas finished third, pulling ahead of Tom Dumoulin, Primoz Roglic and Team Sky teammate Chris Froome in the final kilometer.

"I just felt my throat and nose were burning, eyes were burning afterward", Froome said. "I was trying to keep him at ten, 15 seconds because over the last 500 metres I'd think I could close that gap, but he was the better rider".

The 65-kilometre mountain race, which begins at 2.15pm BST, promises to be one hell of a ride with unique elements to test riders to their limits.

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

Britain's Chris Froome talks to his team after loosing contact with the group of leaders as they climb Col du Portet pass during the seventeenth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 65 kilometers with start in Bagneres-de-Luchon

"Many representatives of the agricultural world have clearly criticised and condemned this intolerable action".

"We are not going to lock the riders in a stadium or a tennis court", Tour director Christian Prudhomme said. "I've took more risks on more technical descents before and never had any problems".

Quintana's victory came despite two early mechanicals on a 65km stage - the shortest road stage in the Tour for over 30 years - that was created to be explosive from the start.

"I want to say that I'm happy to be here after that tough moment", Gilbert reflected. "I heard some of the guys had problems so I thought it was a good decision to stop and wait and bring everything together".

According to French media, the small group of farmers from the local Ariege department protested against the reduction of European Union funding.

Farmers' protests are nothing new at the Tour, but the incident will add to the intense security situation in this year's edition.

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

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