‘My eyes are burning’: Tour chaos as riders hit by tear gas
UPDATE: RIDERS have been accidentally pepper-sprayed after a group of protesting farmers caused more chaos at the Tour de France.
The latest roadside drama erupted only 30km into Stage 16 when the protesters dragged hay bales onto the road, narrowing the space for the oncoming peloton.
Reports from the road said police then used spray to remove them, but that spray blew back into riders' faces.
The Tour was stopped for 15 minutes as a large number of riders received medical attention and used water bottles to flush the spray out of their eyes.
Overall tour leader Geraint Thomas, teammate Chris Froome, Aussie Heinrich Haussler and world champion Peter Sagan were among the many to ask for treatment.
Froome said he was grateful that the race had been neutralised to allow riders to recover.
"My throat, nose and eyes were burning afterwards, but I think quite a lot of riders were in a similar situation," the four-time Tour winner said. "Thankfully the effects didn't last long but temporarily everything was stinging and burning but it wore off pretty quickly."
Farmers had blocked the road with hay bales 29km into the 218km stage from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has condemned the actions of protestors and said says it would have been irresponsible to further endanger the riders as he pointed to dramatic crashes suffered during the stage by Philippe Gilbert and Adam Yates who both went down on descents while leading the race in separate incidents.
"Do not add to danger for the cyclists," Prudhomme said.
"Their field is the road, the road is open - we cannot lock them in a swimming pool or a stadium or in a tennis court. They must be respected, they take enough risks for their job.
"Many representatives of the agricultural world have clearly criticised and condemned this intolerable action. Leave the road to the riders, respect them."
Sagan was picked up by TV cameras asking the race doctor if the eye drops he was given were permissable by WADA before using them.
It's believed no riders crashed as a result of the hay bales or were seriously injured.
It is unknown what the farmers were protesting about, but the incident is the latest in a Tour that has made headlines for bad fan behaviour.
Defending champion Froome was pushed and spat on up Alpe d'Huez, while Vincenzo Nibali crashed out on the same road after his handlebars were caught in the camera strap of a fan standing too close.
A flare has been hurled into the peloton and Team Sky have been repeatedly booed and jeered.