Police accidentally tear gas several Tour de France riders amid farmers' protest

Jeff Pachoud  AFP  Getty Images

CARCASSONNE, France-So the era of Team Sky dominance at the Tour de France has come to this.

It was not immediately clear whether protesters or police used the chemicals.

World cycling chief David Lappartient called on Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford to stop fanning the flames after the Englishman blamed abuse of his team and riders on a "French cultural thing". With another gruelling trip across the Alps and Pyrenees, who will wear the yellow jersey on the Champs-Elysees?

"After a stalemate in the battle for yellow, Welshman Thomas retained his 1'39" lead over Froome, with Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) also emerging unscathed to retain his third place, a further 11 seconds back.

'It's disappointing, but there's nothing we can do, ' he said.

"It's a fantastic position to be in, to be still first and second on GC", the coach of both Froome and Thomas, Australian Tim Kerrison said at the site of the finish at Alpe d'Huez. "It's pointless, and he mustn't forget everything that France and the Tour de France have given him".

Thomas praised Froome's "mental strength and his never-say-die attitude", two qualities that he will need to show in the coming days if he's to enter Paris triumphant on Sunday.

Jeff Pachoud  AFP  Getty Images
Jeff Pachoud AFP Getty Images

But Frenchman Lappartient, whom Brailsford has previously accused of having a "French mayor mentality", asked the Sky team's boss not to stir up animosity among the local fans.

"It is a good question whether that is an advantage or a disadvantage for me", he said.

"We're trying to remain dignified, not to react and not to get distracted by it". "I think we will expect a lot of attacks from the start and a big, big day. They won't attack from the starting line", Steels says, adding that the only instance where an immediate attack could occur is if one team has four or five riders in the top 20.

With a final climb of 16 kilometers at an average gradient of more than eight percent, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme hopes it will be a "dynamite stage". "It's for all the others to make up time on us and dislodge us from the position we're in".

"The Tour is promoted as the world's greatest annual global sporting event and if that's what you want to host and if you want the best riders in the world to come to your country to take part, then maybe treat them with a little more respect", he said.

The Tour is no ordinary sporting event and Team Sky is no ordinary team.

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