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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.

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Zakarin wins 1st mountain-top finish of Giro; Polanc leads

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CERESOLE REALE, Italy (AP) Russian rider Ilnur Zakarin won the 13th stage of the Giro d’Italia with a solo attack up to the race’s first big mountain-top finish, and Jan Polanc held onto the overall leader’s pink jersey Friday.

Zakarin, who rides for Team Katusha Alpecin, required more than 5+ hours to complete the 196-kilometer (122-mile) route from Pinerolo to Ceresole Reale near Turin. It was the third Grand Tour stage win of Zakarin’s career, having also won stages in the 2015 Giro and 2016 Tour de France.

The route featured three major climbs, including a grueling ascent to Ceresole Reale between banks of snow lining the road.

Zakarin was part of an early breakaway and then accelerated away from Mikel Nieve in the final kilometers. Nieve crossed second, 35 seconds behind, and Mikel Landa finished third, 1:20 behind.

Overall favorites Primoz Roglic and Vincenzo Nibali finished in a two-man group in seventh and eighth, respectively, both nearly three minutes behind Zakarin.

Roglic and Nibali finished well ahead of Polanc, who took the lead on Thursday.

Polanc now leads Roglic by 2:25 with Zakarin third, 2:56 behind, Bauke Mollema fourth and Nibali fifth.

“We knew the last climb will be really hard,” Zakarin said through a translator. “I didn’t have a plan for the climb. I did my best and this is the result. The ambition is to be in the top five and now it is possible.”

Landa, who has gained time on the other overall favorites for two consecutive days, is eighth. Miguel Angel Lopez had a mechanical problem with his chain on the final climb and trails by 7:48.

Team Ineos rider Tao Geoghegan Hart of Britain crashed out while in an early breakaway.

Stage 14 on Saturday is another grueling mountain leg, featuring five climbs and another uphill finish along the 131-kilometer route from Saint-Vincent to Courmayeur in the Valle d’Aosta region near the French border.

The three-week race ends in Verona on June 2.

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Demare wins crash-affected Stage 10; Conti keeps Giro lead

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MODENA, Italy (AP) Arnaud Demare of France sprinted to victory after a crash affected the end of the 10th stage of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday, while Italian cyclist Valerio Conti kept the overall lead.

Demare, who rides for Groupama-FDJ, edged out Elia Viviani and Rudiger Selig in a bunch sprint at the end of the entirely flat 145-kilometer (90-mile) route from Ravenna to Modena.

“We came to the Giro for this. I really wanted a stage win and I got it,” Demare said. “I avoided the crash because we, as a team, were very well positioned. I’m super happy.”

A crash inside the final kilometer ended Pascal Ackermann’s chances of claiming a third stage win at this year’s Giro. The German cyclist finished the stage with his shorts and jersey in tatters.

Ackermann appeared to touch wheels with the rider in front of him, causing him to go down and taking out a number of other cyclists.

The most seriously injured was Matteo Moschetti, who briefly lost consciousness. His Trek-Segafredo teammates and other cyclists frantically waved over medics and Moschetti attempted to stand but swiftly sat down again.

The 22-year-old was taken to a hospital.

As the crash happened inside the final three kilometers there were no time gaps given. Conti remained 1 minute, 50 seconds ahead of Primoz Roglic and 2:21 ahead of Nans Peters of France.

“It wasn’t a hard day but, as everyone saw, danger is always around the corner,” Conti said. “Luckily I managed to avoid all the crashes. It went well, another day in the pink jersey is a source of pride.”

Wednesday’s 11th stage is also entirely flat along the 221-kilometer route from Carpi to Novi Ligure.

The Giro finishes in Verona on June 2.

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