Julian Alaphilippe took advantage of a late Adam Yates crash to win a hectic Stage 16 of the 2018 Tour de France on Tuesday, when a farmers protest saw some riders hit with pepper spray or tear gas.
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas retained the yellow jersey after the 218-kilometre trip from Carcassonne to Bagneres-du-Luchon. Team-mate Chris Froome was one of those in the peloton caught by police attempts to disperse protesters, per the Associated Press, and AFP brought details of the delay:
Yates made his break on the climb up Col du Portillon with 14 kilometres to go, but a slip five kilometres or so out let Alaphilippe in to take the stage, while he settled for third and Gorka Izagirre scythed in to take second.
Thomas came into Stage 16 with a lead of one minute, 39 seconds and finished with the same cushion thanks to a flawless performance from Team Sky.
The official Tour Twitter account posted a breakdown of the top 10 finishers in Stage 16, which saw Team Sky continue with their pragmatic approach as they stayed close to the peloton to protect Thomas' cushion:
And the Welshman finished his descent to Bagneres-du-Luchon with the same advantage he had coming in as general classification leader, per CyclingPub:
Crashes and controversy were apparent on Tuesday, when Yates was on course for his first senior Tour classification win before a lapse in judgement rounding a bend close to the finish led to his downfall.
He was a little more than five kilometres out when Alaphilippe reduced his 20-second lead to nothing and took advantage, and Mitchelton–Scott's star was left shaking his head as he dropped to third:
Alaphilippe, on the other hand, looked like good value for a sprint finish despite his lack of immediate competition. He was shaking his legs out, appealing to the cameras en route to his second stage win of this Tour:
The race was halted after only 30 kilometres after farmers had set up bales of hay to prevent passage through the country route.
Reuters reported Thomas, as well as green jersey-holder Peter Sagan, were among those rubbing their eyes after the tear gas intended for protesters also wafted in the peloton's direction.
According to Cycling News, farmers were rallying against recent changes to "so-called disadvantaged and difficult-to-farm areas," and broadcaster Danny Kelly showed how their message was felt—for 15 minutes, to be more precise:
There was also a major crash involving Philippe Gilbert, whose back wheel appeared to lock up when he was descending the infamous Col de Portet d'Aspet, and it set him hurtling over a stone wall.
The Frenchman's fall was one of, if not the most concerning crash seen so far on this year's Tour, but spectators and pundits alike were pleased to see Gilbert back up and on his bike within minutes:
It appeared as though Gilbert had injured his arm in the fall—something to keep an eye on in terms of the Quick-Step Floors rider's Tour prospects. Whether it played a factor in his spill or not, Gilbert was taking to the Portet d'Aspet without fear:
The top 12 riders in the general classification all stayed together throughout Stage 16 to ensure the first stage back after Monday's rest wasn't the most lively in terms of change to the standings.
That being said, those both participating in the Tour and around it ensured Tuesday's journey to Bagneres-du-Luchon was not without incident, to say the least, as Alaphilippe dazzled to victory in the polka dot jersey.