Tour de France re-starts after farmers' protest

Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas are both affected by police pepper-spraying protestors

'The Tour de France is promoted as the world's greatest annual sporting event and, if you want the best global riders to come, maybe treat them with a little more respect.

The Tour de France - cycling's most prestigious race - was temporarily halted Tuesday after tear gas, used to disperse protesters by police, inadvertently got into the eyes of some riders.

The overall standings were unchanged.

The farmers' protest occurred 30 kilometres into the 218-kilometre (135.5-mile) leg from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon.

Thomas, Froome and the green jersey Peter Sagan were among the riders who needed medical attention - including eye-drops - while the race was neutralised shortly after the 30km mark. He was cleared of wrongdoing just five days before the Tour started - at a time when organisers were seeking to ban Froome from racing at all. "I took Kristoff's wheel for the sprint", said Sagan.

"Froome has the experience and is the proven one out of the two", he added.

"I don't think spitting has a place in professional sport, or in everyday life, but it seems to be the thing that's done here (in France)".

This year's Tour de France has been marked by a series of incidents on the sidelines including abuse directed at Team Sky and Froome.

Thomas has been the most consistent rider of the Tour so far but Hayles says the Welshman has not yet been tested at this level. "It's hard in cycling when you're just on the open road".

"We are not going to lock the riders in a stadium or a tennis court", Tour director Christian Prudhomme said. "The riders' job is extremely risky, they are taking risks every day, people should not block the road, no matter what causes they are fighting for".

"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.

Julian Alaphilippe's descending skills made the difference as the Frenchman claimed his second victory in this year's Tour.

"He speaks our language, and he knows what the Tour gave him", he said.

He added: "I'm not sure they would like to have seen their (France) football players being spat at (the World Cup) in Russian Federation".

It was the second nasty crash of an action-packed stage, after Philippe Gilbert had earlier lost control, crashing into a wall and being spectacularly flung into a ditch.

Nibali was diagnosed with a fractured vertebra and the Bahrain-Merida rider later tweeted that he was withdrawing from the Tour.

That earned plenty of commentary at the Monday morning media call but Froome also offered some feedback on the leadership status at Team Sky.

This pair recently finished the Giro d'Italia in first and second overall... and now they're trying their luck in the second Grand Tour of 2018 and both are excelling, even if neither has yet won a stage nor worn the yellow jersey this year.

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