A chaotic 16th stage of the Tour de France has seen a number of leading riders left needing treatment for tear gas.
Four-time champion Chris Froome was among the riders who were inadvertently hit with the gas after a farmers’ protest interrupted the stage on Tuesday night.
Bales of hay blocked the road 30km into the 218km leg from Carcassonne to Bagneres De-Luchon.
Tour organisers said police used tear gas to disperse the protesters as the peloton approached.
But the gas was still in the air when the peloton arrived on the scene, with several riders requiring medical treatment to clear their eyes and throats.
Froome, race leader Geraint Thomas, and world champion Peter Sagan appeared to be among those affected by the chemical.
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme condemned the actions of protestors.
Prudhomme says it was irresponsible to further endanger the riders as he pointed to dramatic crashes suffered during the stage by Philippe Gilbert and Adam Yates, who both went down on descents while leading the race in separate incidents.
“Do not add to danger for the cyclists,” Prudhomme said.
“Their field is the road, the road is open – we cannot lock them in a swimming pool or a stadium or in a tennis court. They must be respected, they take enough risks for their job.
“Many representatives of the agricultural world have clearly criticised and condemned this intolerable action. Leave the road to the riders, respect them.”
Froome said he was grateful that the race had been neutralised to allow riders to recover.
“My throat, nose and eyes were burning afterwards, but I think quite a lot of riders were in a similar situation,” the four-time Tour winner said.
“Thankfully the effects didn’t last long but temporarily everything was stinging and burning but it wore off pretty quickly.”
Though farmers’ protests and other such incidents are nothing new at the Tour, this year there is already a heightened tension regarding race security.
Froome was jostled and spat at on Alpe d’Huez, while 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali saw his race ended after he was brought down in a tangle with a fan on the same mountain.
The incident came at the start of a stage which was won by Julian Alaphilippe, who had been chasing Yates when the Lancastrian crashed just 6.5km from the finish.
Froome raced all season under the cloud of a potential ban for using twice the permitted level of salbutamol during his victory at the Spanish Vuelta in September.
He was cleared only just before the Tour.
Froome sits second in the general classification, 60.39 seconds behind Sky teammate Thomas.