Riders start 'most feared' stage in Tour de France

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Gendarmes detain a protesting farmer as the pack rides behind during the 16th stage of the 105th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, between Carcassonne and Bagneres-de-Luchon, southwestern France, on July 24, 2018.

The peloton passes through bales of hay after the farmer protest was brought to an end.

Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, who still sit first and second respectively in the general classification after emerging unscathed from a wacky Stage 16, were two of the riders affected by the incident.

Organisers were forced to halt the race for about 10 minutes before it was restarted.

The 65km race is the shortest stage in the modern era of the Tour de France and therefore will be similar to a time trial.

Protesting farmers had blocked the road with hay bales, leading police to spray them with CS gas.

Stephane Mahe/Reuters Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas of Britain, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, cleans his eyes.

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The incident occurred when the 36-year-old was descending the Col de Portet-d'Aspet - the hill which claimed the life of Italian rider Fabio Casartelli in 1995.

It will be a stage with three climbs, 3,000 metres of positive elevation and is only 65 kilometres long!

Although he was helped back onto his bike to finish the stage, won by French teammate Julian Alaphilippe, Gilbert emerged from the X-ray truck suffering from his endeavours.

"The road should remain free, we are not going to lock the riders in a stadium or on a tennis court", he said.

According to a statement from French authorities in the local Aude department, a small group of 20 activists made the intervention to protest a planned reduction of European Union funding in their area. I took a lot of risks.

Earlier in the stage, Alaphilippe's team mate Gilbert was also in the race lead on the descent of the Portet d'Aspet but fanged it too hot into a corner, crashing over a wall and into a ravine.

After the Formula 1-style grid start in Bagneres-de-Luchon, which saw overall leader Thomas line up directly ahead of Froome and Dumoulin, it was Estonian rider Tanel Kangert who led the breakaway.