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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

Andre Cardoso banned four years for doping

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AIGLE, Switzerland — The International Cycling Union says it imposed a four-year ban on Portuguese rider Andre Cardoso for doping with EPO ahead of the 2017 Tour de France.

The UCI says its anti-doping tribunal gave its verdict, in a case opened almost 17 months ago.

Cardoso tested positive for the endurance boosting hormone two weeks before the Tour.

He was suspended by Trek-Segafredo, which selected Cardoso as a specialist climber to support team leader Alberto Contador.

The 34-year-old Cardoso had career top-20 finishes in the Giro d’Italia and Spanish Vuelta, and competed in the road races at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Pro riders union upset by doping control during cycling gala

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PARIS — The professional cyclists’ union is urging anti-doping authorities to treat athletes in a more respectful manner after a Belgian rider was forced to leave a cycling gala to follow anti-doping inspectors for an out-of-competition test.

Pieter Serry, who rides for the Quick Step team, missed the Gala of the Flandrien on Tuesday after doping inspectors came to the ceremony to take samples.

In a statement published Wednesday, the riders’ association (CPA) complained about “another case of non-respect for the privacy of the riders” and criticized the odd timing of some doping controls.

“There have been cases reported where the riders were checked on their wedding day, during a funeral or on their child’s first day of school,” said Gianni Bugno, the president of the CPA. “Now we read about the case of Pieter Serry, controlled in the offseason, out of the hour scheduled, while at the Flemish cycling festival. … The riders pay 2 percent of their prizes to make these controls possible, they are the only athletes in the world who pay the anti-doping from their own pockets,” Bugno said. “The riders respect the measures required for the fight against doping, but at least they ask for the respect of their private life in return.”

Belgian media quoted Serry as saying he had already been tested two weeks ago and told antidoping authorities he was available from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. at his home.

“I understand that there must be checks and that people have to do their work, but two checks immediately after each other, out of season, is simply a waste of money. I feel like a prisoner with an ankle monitor,” Serry was quoted as saying.

The CPA added it will try to find out whether it was the Belgian anti-doping agency, the national cycling federation or Cycling’s anti-doping foundation (CADF) which ordered Serry’s test.

“In addition, the CPA will present an official request to all the bodies involved in the fight against doping and the UCI to establish a code of conduct for the controllers, to ensure the respect for the private life of the athletes, at least in certain circumstances,” the CPA said.