Tour de France marred by accidental tear gassing of riders during protest

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Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford believes the spitting, booing and physical intimidation to which his riders have been subjected at this Tour de France is a phenomenon particular to "French culture", adding that unless French fans start to "respect top global teams" they may find they do not come any more.

Yellow jersey holder Geraint Thomas and world champion Peter Sagan were among the riders rinsing their eyes as the stage was stopped for 15 minutes. "But I think quite a lot of riders were in a similar situation". "But I ended up more or less OK".

"We just get on".

"I fell onto rocks and, when I landed, I thought I'd been broken apart".

"Their field is the road, the road is open - we can not lock them in a swimming pool or a stadium or in a tennis court. When you come so close to winning a stage of the Tour, it's pretty devastating", added Yates, who won the young rider classification in the Tour two years ago. One fan was arrested on Alpe d'Huez last Thursday for allegedly punching Chris Froome, while another pushed him as he rode past.

Amid a general feeling of suspicion surrounding Sky and their sheer domination of the race, Froome has been spat at and manhandled, Thomas has been booed off the podium and some of Sky's staff have also faced abuse.

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Both riders have been careful to say the right things since the Tour began, no doubt conscious that everything could yet change on the road. "It's hard in cycling when you're just on the open road. Like a French cultural thing".

"The Tour is promoted as the world's greatest annual global sporting event and if that's what you want to host and if you want the best riders in the world to come to your country to take part, then maybe treat them with a little more respect", he said. I'm sure there would have been a word or two about that. "There was a bit of downforce or something and I came down, that's all there is to it".

Relations are unlikely to be improved by the disqualification on Sunday night of Gianni Moscon, one of Sky's eight riders, for punching a young French rival.

"The Tour de France is promoted as the world's greatest annual sporting event and if you want the best global riders to come to your country then maybe treat them with a little more respect", he concluded.

But the 25-year-old Lancastrian crashed with 6.5km to go, allowing Quick-Step Floors' Julian Alaphilippe to zip by and take his second stage win of this Tour. "People should not block the road, no matter what causes they are fighting for".

"If you don't want them to come then maybe race only with French teams, that might work". I had some water and rinsed my eyes out, and washed my mouth out.

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