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Alaphilippe wins protest-hit stage, Thomas keeps Tour lead

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BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France (AP) Julian Alaphilippe took advantage of his downhill skills to win the wild 16th stage of the Tour de France on Tuesday, which was briefly interrupted when police used tear gas to disperse a farmers’ protest that had blocked the road with bales of hay.

The overall standings were unchanged with Geraint Thomas in the yellow jersey, second-placed Chris Froome and third-placed Tom Dumoulin each crossing 8 minutes, 52 seconds behind.

Thomas remained 1 minute, 39 seconds ahead of four-time champion Froome, with Dumoulin 1:50 back.

Alaphillipe took the lead when Adam Yates crashed on a technical descent in the finale.

“I knew the finale was tricky,” Alaphilippe said. “I was sad for (Yates) but it could have happened to me, too, because I took a lot of risks. … I went all out for 220 kilometers today, I’m exhausted.”

Belgian rider Philippe Gilbert crashed earlier in the stage while in the lead when descending from the Col de Portet-d’Aspet, hitting a wall and flipping off his bike but avoiding major injury. It was the same descent where Italian rider Fabio Casartelli died in the 1995 Tour.

Gilbert, the 2012 world champion and a Quick-Step teammate of Alaphilippe, appeared to avoid major injuries and was treated for some scrapes on his left arm after getting back on his bike.

A Frenchman, Alaphilippe also won the 10th stage and is wearing the polka-dot jersey of the mountains classification leader.

The farmers’ protest occurred 30 kilometers into the 218-kilometer (135.5-mile) leg from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon.

Thomas, Froome, world champion Peter Sagan and other riders were treated with eye drops due to the tear gas amid a 15-minute delay.

The small group of farmers from the Ariege department were protesting the reduction of European Union funding, French media reported.

“We are not going to lock the riders in a stadium or a tennis court,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme said. “People should not block the road, no matter what causes they are fighting for.”

Yates led Alaphilippe by 20 seconds at the top of the Col du Portillon climb 10 kilometers from the finish but lost control with 6K to go, falling to the pavement on a left turn and sliding across the road.

Alaphilippe, who was already gaining ground on Yates, quickly passed the British rider and had time to celebrate before the finish, smiling at the crowd and shaking his head in disbelief.

Spanish rider Gorka Izaguirre finished second, 15 seconds behind, and Yates crossed third with the same time.

It was the first of three mountainous stages in the Pyrenees before Sunday’s conclusion in Paris.

Passing briefly through Spain, the route featured three climbs in the finale – the Col de Portet-d’Aspet, the Col de Mente and the Col du Portillon – followed by a downhill finish.

The race remains in the Pyrenees on Wednesday for what could be the most challenging stage of the Tour, a 65-kilometer leg from Bagneres-de Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan Col du Portet that features three grueling climbs, including an uphill finish – and hardly a stretch of flat road.

Associated Press writers Samuel Petrequin and Ciaran Fahey contributed.

More Tour de France coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/TourdeFrance

Britain’s richest man becomes new sponsor of Team Sky

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LONDON — Britain’s richest man has bought the Team Sky cycling team, which will be renamed Team Ineos.

Jim Ratcliffe, who is the chairman of chemicals giant Ineos, is reported by the Sunday Times rich list as being worth 21 billion dollars (18.5 million euros).

Ineos pledged in a statement on Tuesday to honor all “existing commitments to riders, staff and partners.”

The team’s launch takes place at the Tour de Yorkshire which starts in Doncaster on May 2.

Sky’s long-time team principal Dave Brailsford welcomed the move, saying “it ends the uncertainty around the team” and “represents a huge vote of confidence in our future.”

Sky has won six of the past seven Tour de France races, with Chris Froome winning four times and Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas winning it once.

British broadcaster Sky announced its withdrawal from the sport last December following the European pay TV giant’s takeover by American company Comcast.

Roglic wins Tirreno-Adriatico by one second ahead of Yates

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SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy — Primoz Roglic of Slovenia won the Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race by one second when he beat British rider Adam Yates in the final-stage time trial on Tuesday.

Victor Campenaerts won the 10-kilometer (six-mile) individual time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.

Roglic, who rides for Team Jumbo-Visma, started the time trial in second place in the overall standings, 25 seconds behind Yates.

“It was unbelievably close. I was lucky in the end,” Roglic said. “I felt strong … I tried to make a difference and really go for it and I really pushed until the finish line.

“I was confident but I can only control myself.”

Yates had been in the lead of the race since the second of the seven stages, while his Mitchelton-Scott team had won the opening-day team time trial.

“It was close, but it wasn’t enough, that’s how it goes, that’s bike racing,” Yates said. “I did the best I could, I said yesterday that 25 seconds isn’t really enough. But I did a good TT, I’ll have to look back but I think the power was good and I held my position for as long as I could.

“There wasn’t much more I could do, the strongest man won, but for sure next year I’ll be back and hopefully I can come back stronger.”

Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark finished third overall, 30 seconds behind Roglic and nearly a minute ahead of Tom Dumoulin.

Campenaerts won the final stage in 11-plus minutes. Alberto Bettiol was three seconds behind the Belgian. Jos van Emden of the Netherlands was four seconds back.