Tour de France riders inadvertently tear-gassed

Tour de France riders inadvertently tear-gassed

Thomas held an overnight lead of 1 minute 39 seconds on compatriot Chris Froome, but took it to 2:31 after the four-time champion crossed the finish 1:36 behind Quintana and almost a minute off Thomas.

Froome dropped to third overall and now trails Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) by 32secs and Thomas by 2:31, ahead of a final mountain stage on Friday, which finishes downhill, and the penultimate stage time trial on Saturday.

Yellow jersey-bearing Thomas latched onto his wheel immediately as did Primoz Roglic, but four-time Tour victor Froome had no response other than to grit his teeth and stick his tongue out.

It completes a poor day for Froome, with the four-time Tour de France victor losing time on the mountainous Stage 17 to his rivals in the final few kilometres of the race.

"But I still felt strong and had the energy to finish the race on a high".

But the 25-year-old Lancastrian crashed with 6.5km to go, allowing Quick-Step Floors' Alaphilippe to zip by and take his second stage win of this Tour. "It's bike racing", Alaphilippe said. "Nairo came with me".

Thomas leads fellow Briton Froome by 1:39, with Dumoulin 11 seconds further back before Wednesday's savage 65-km trek that ends with the much-feared climb up the Col du Portet, a lung-busting 16-km ascent at an average gradient of 8.7%.

"It was just about defending that lead", said Thomas.

Britain's Geraint Thomas solidified his position in the yellow jersey during the 17th stage
PETER DEJONG AP Britain's Geraint Thomas solidified his position in the yellow jersey during the 17th stage

The British rider was hoping to join the likes of Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Miguel Indurain and Bernard Hinault, as the only riders in the Tour's history to win the race five times.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme called on spectators to behave themselves, given the already risky nature of the event - evidenced by Philippe Gilbert's crash when leading on Tuesday that ultimately led to the Quick-Step Floors man withdrawing from the race.

Inside the opening 30 kilometres of the 218km route from Carcassone to Bagneres-de-Luchon, a group of farmers attempted to block the road with hay bales, seemingly in response to the French government's plans to reduce the number of areas that are set to receive agricultural subsidies.

"I thought I was broken everywhere", said Gilbert, a teammate of Alaphilippe's on the Quick-Step team.

"It's pure happiness after a day of suffering", said Alaphilippe, who tightened his grip on the polka dot jersey for the mountains classification.

At a news conference during the race's second rest day on Monday, Brailsford took umbrage at the treatment inflicted on his riders, who have been verbally abused and spat at over the past two weeks.

"Spectators are becoming more and more demanding and they want to see real excitement", says Luca Guercilena, general manager of the Trek-Segafredo team.

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