Alaphilippe wins protest-hit stage

Julian Alaphilippe of the Quick Step team took advantage of his downhill skills to win the wild 16th stage of the Tour de France yesterday.
Alaphilippe wins protest-hit stage

A police officer pepper sprays a protester as another protester stands in front of the race director’s car during stage 16 of the Tour de France, a 218-kilometer ride from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon. 

Julian Alaphilippe of the Quick Step team took advantage of his downhill skills to win the wild 16th stage of the Tour de France yesterday, which was briefly interrupted when police used tear gas to disperse a farmers’ protest that had blocked the road with bales of hay.

Geraint Thomas (Sky) in the yellow jersey, second-placed Chris Froome (Sky) and the other riders atop the standings trailed about 9 minutes behind.

Alaphillipe took the lead when Briton Adam Yates (Mitchelton) crashed on a technical descent in the finale.

Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert crashed earlier in the stage while in the lead, hitting a wall and flipping off his bike but avoiding major injury.

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 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.

Ahead of stage 17 today, described as the most decisive stage in the final week, Welshman Thomas maintained his 1-minute, 39-second lead on four-time champion Froome.

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) is still third at 1:50.

But the day belonged to local favorite Alaphilippe.

Yates was on his own and racing towards a possible stage win when he crashed on the descent of the Col du Portillon, the fifth and last climb of the day, his front wheel skidding away from under him as he negotiated a left-hand bend.

Just as Yates got back on his bike, Alaphilippe sped past, looked around at the Englishman and surged ahead.

The 26-year-old Frenchman did not look back on the downhill section into Bagneres, where he had plenty of time to soak up his second win of the race.

“I’m delighted,” said Alaphilippe. “It was really hard to get into the early breakaway and the rest of the day I was suffering.

“The pace was really fast the whole day. But it’s fantastic. I’m really happy.”

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