Tour de France halted after riders sprayed with tear gas by cops trying to disperse protesting farmers on stage 16

GERAINT THOMAS was one of over 100 Tour de France riders stopped after drifting into a cloud of TEAR GAS.

A farmers' strike just ahead of the race forced police to spray protesters — and it got into the riders' eyes as they rowed past.

 Geraint Thomas is in the Yellow Jersey and was one of the riders with tear gas caught in his eyes

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Geraint Thomas is in the Yellow Jersey and was one of the riders with tear gas caught in his eyes
 Protesters were sprayed by police with massive clouds of tear gas

Reuters
Protesters were sprayed by police with massive clouds of tear gas
 Protesters had to be dragged away from the road by Gendarmes after they managed to get the race stopped

Reuters
Protesters had to be dragged away from the road by Gendarmes after they managed to get the race stopped
 Bales of hay had to be removed from the road after a farmers' protest further ahead

Reuters
Bales of hay had to be removed from the road after a farmers' protest further ahead
 Chris Froome puts eye drops in his eyes after being affected by the gas

EPA
Chris Froome puts eye drops in his eyes after being affected by the gas
 Quick-Step Cycling tweeted that tear gas had been used to disperse protesting farmers

Twitter
Quick-Step Cycling tweeted that tear gas had been used to disperse protesting farmers

The farmers were dispersed after dumping bales of hay on the road, causing scenes of anger and confusion.

The protest outside Fanjeaux — just 18 miles after stage 16 had begun in Carcassonne — forced race officials to stop the cyclists and wait safely, rather than risk crashing with pepper spray in the riders' eyes.

A number of riders could be seen dropping fluid into their eyes as others took the opportunity for a toilet break.

Police stood in front of the cars containing Christian Prudhomme, the race director and explained the situation to the Tour supremo.

Tour de France star Philippe Gilbert in horror crash during Stage 16

 Thomas washes his face down with water after getting tear gas in his eyes

Reuters
Thomas washes his face down with water after getting tear gas in his eyes
 Froome attempts to squirt the liquid into his eyes

EPA
Froome attempts to squirt the liquid into his eyes
 Froome pulled a face but was actually trying to get his eyes cleaned

AP:Associated Press
Froome pulled a face but was actually trying to get his eyes cleaned
 Police chased protesters off the road and doused them in pepper spray - but the effect was felt throughout the peloton

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Police chased protesters off the road and doused them in pepper spray – but the effect was felt throughout the peloton
 Several riders were seen using eye drops during stage 16

Reuters
Several riders were seen using eye drops during stage 16
 Police with assault rifles chase down a protester with a bucket

Reuters
Police with assault rifles chase down a protester with a bucket
 Chris Froome stood by the road chatting to rivals after the race was neutralised for around 15 minutes

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Chris Froome stood by the road chatting to rivals after the race was neutralised for around 15 minutes
 Many riders could not stop rubbing their eyes after the incident

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Many riders could not stop rubbing their eyes after the incident
 A policeman covers his face in front of the tractors that loaded bales of hay into the road at the Tour de France

AFP or licensors
A policeman covers his face in front of the tractors that loaded bales of hay into the road at the Tour de France

Some were given medical treatment by their team's doctors, while several policeman attempted to keep protesters away from the race.

Former Yellow Jersey wearer David Millar said on ITV's coverage: "This is a classic farmers' strike, at the last minute tractors pushed the bales of hay in.

"And that's gone and at the very last second just shut the race down."

Thomas is aiming to win his first Tour de France crown, with four-time winner Chris Froome in second place, 1min 39sec down on his Sky team-mate in second.

Today's stage and Wednesday's huge mountain leg should give a much clearer indication of who will win the three-week event.

 Simon Clarke gets a team-mate to spray his face with water

EPA
Simon Clarke gets a team-mate to spray his face with water
 Race director Christian Prudhomme gets on the phone to local law enforcement over the delay

EPA
Race director Christian Prudhomme gets on the phone to local law enforcement over the delay
 Sky rider Michal Kwiatkowski sits down on the side of the road after the incident

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Sky rider Michal Kwiatkowski sits down on the side of the road after the incident
 Competitors washed their faces down after tear gas drifted into the path of the oncoming peloton

AFP or licensors
Competitors washed their faces down after tear gas drifted into the path of the oncoming peloton
 Riders were left washing their eyes out with eye drops after tear gas reportedly drifted into the peloton

ITV
Riders were left washing their eyes out with eye drops after tear gas reportedly drifted into the peloton
 The entire peloton was stopped further down the road as the protest was dispersed by police... using tear gas

AFP or licensors
The entire peloton was stopped further down the road as the protest was dispersed by police… using tear gas
 Tour broadcasters later highlighted exactly what happened as tractors pushed bales of hay into the road at the last second in protest at the Tour de France

ITV
Tour broadcasters later highlighted exactly what happened as tractors pushed bales of hay into the road at the last second in protest at the Tour de France

GERAINT THOMAS was one of over 100 Tour de France riders stopped after drifting into a cloud of TEAR GAS.