Stage 16 halted as riders hit by pepper spray at Tour de France

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A protest by local farmers resulted in a 15-minute neutralization on Stage 16 of the Tour de France after a police officer used pepper spray on protestors, which then blew into the peloton.

About 29km into the 218km stage from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon, protestors attempted to block the race by throwing hay bales onto the course. A French gendarme aimed the pepper spray at the protestors but it was picked up by the wind and wafted into the bunch.

No breakaway had been formed at that point in the race, and race officials called for a neutralization so that riders could be treated.

Among those seen taking a bottle of water to wash their eyes were yellow jersey Geraint Thomas and teammate Chris Froome (Team Sky), green jersey Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe), Stage 6 winner Dan Martin (UAE-Team Emirates), Stage 14 winner Omar Fraile (Astana), Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida).

The farmer’s protest concerned a recent revision to the classification of “zone defavorisée” compensation, which allows farmers to receive subsidies due to poor soil and mountainous slopes.

None of the riders appeared to show adverse affects from the pepper spray, and after about 15 minutes, the flag dropped and racing began again.

French police used pepper spray against protesting farmers who had thrown hay bales on the Stage 16 from Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon. The pepper spray also got into the eyes of passing riders, causing a 15-minute neutralization.

According to the website for France’s Ministry of Agriculture, the indemnité compensatoire de handicaps naturels (ICHN) is governmental aid “provides financial compensation every year to correct the income differences that persist between farms located in less-favored areas and those in the rest of the country. The objective of this policy is to maintain a network of agricultural assets and a human presence in these territories, to avoid, in particular, the abandonment of land and its negative consequences, in terms of landscape and biodiversity.”

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