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Tour de France briefly stopped after police reportedly pepper sprayed riders by accident

Riders appear to be OK after a farmers protest by the side of the road briefly neutralized Stage 16 of the Tour de France.

AFP/Getty Images

Stage 16 of the Tour de France had to be neutralized for roughly 15 minutes after a protest interrupted the race. What appeared to be French farmers threw hay bales onto the road just before the peloton was set to pass by, roughly 30 kilometers into the stage, and police became involved.

One officer, according to reports, may have pepper sprayed a protestor and inadvertently sprayed riders, too. Photos taken by Getty Images and L’Équipe showed several riders, including yellow jersey bearer Geraint Thomas, rubbing their eyes.

Geraint Thomas rubbing his eyes in the midst of Stage 16’s neutralization.
AFP/Getty Images
An Education First-Drapac rider during Stage 16’s neutralization.
AFP/Getty Images
Police removing a protestor from the road during Stage 16 as riders go past.
AFP/Getty Images

Hopefully the pepper sprayed riders are not adversely affected for long. The stage did restart (though it is effectively 40 kilometers shorter now because of the incident), and no riders seemed to be showing any further trouble because of the incident.

ITV Cycling in the United Kingdom initially called the scene “troubling” and said that it appeared that the wind had carried the spray into riders’ eyes.

The Quick-Step Floors team also suggested that the eye irritation that the riders experienced was due to something that the police had sprayed.

We’ll be sure to update this post if we learn anything more. If we’re lucky, “that time some police officer accidentally pepper sprayed the peloton” will be just yet another weird but ultimately insignificant footnote to a sporting event full of weird, insignificant footnotes.