BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France – Julian Alaphilippe took advantage of his downhill skills to win the wild 16th stage of the Tour de France on Tuesday, which was briefly interrupted when police used tear gas to disperse a farmers’ protest that had blocked the road with bales of hay.
The overall standings were unchanged with Geraint Thomas in the yellow jersey, second-placed Chris Froome and third-placed Tom Dumoulin each crossing 8 minutes, 52 seconds behind.
Thomas remained 1 minute, 39 seconds ahead of four-time champion Froome, with Dumoulin 1:50 back.
Alaphillipe took the lead when Adam Yates crashed on a technical descent in the finale.
“I knew the finale was tricky,” Alaphilippe said. “I was sad for (Yates) but it could have happened to me, too, because I took a lot of risks. … I went all out for 220 kilometers today, I’m exhausted.”
Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert crashed earlier in the stage while in the lead when descending from the Col de Portet-d’Aspet, hitting a wall and flipping off his bike but avoiding major injury. It was the same descent where Italian rider Fabio Casartelli died in the 1995 Tour.
Gilbert, the 2012 world champion and a Quick-Step teammate of Alaphilippe, appeared to avoid major injuries and was treated for some scrapes on his left arm after getting back on his bike.
A Frenchman, Alaphilippe also won the 10th stage and is wearing the polka-dot jersey of the mountains classification leader.
The farmers’ protest occurred 30 kilometers into the 218-kilometer (135.5-mile) leg from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon.
Thomas, Froome, world champion Peter Sagan and other riders were treated with eye drops due to the tear gas amid a 15-minute delay.
The small group of farmers from the Ariege department were protesting the reduction of European Union funding, French media reported.
“We are not going to lock the riders in a stadium or a tennis court,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme said. “People should not block the road, no matter what causes they are fighting for.”
Yates led Alaphilippe by 20 seconds at the top of the Col du Portillon climb 10 kilometers from the finish but lost control with 6K to go, falling to the pavement on a left turn and sliding across the road.
Alaphilippe, who was already gaining ground on Yates, quickly passed the British rider and had time to celebrate before the finish, smiling at the crowd and shaking his head in disbelief.
Spanish rider Gorka Izaguirre finished second, 15 seconds behind, and Yates crossed third with the same time.
It was the first of three mountainous stages in the Pyrenees before Sunday’s conclusion in Paris.
Passing briefly through Spain, the route featured three climbs in the finale – the Col de Portet-d’Aspet, the Col de Mente and the Col du Portillon – followed by a downhill finish.
The race remains in the Pyrenees on Wednesday for what could be the most challenging stage of the Tour, a 65-kilometer leg from Bagneres-de Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet that features three grueling climbs, including an uphill finish – and hardly a stretch of flat road.
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