France’s most iconic sporting event – an organised protest against French government policy – was interrupted by a bicycle race overnight, resulting in the accidental teargassing of several Tour De France riders.

The 16th stage of Le Tour was temporarily halted in the Carcasonne region after a group of farmers threw hay bales on the course.

The aggrieved farmers, who wanted to draw the attention of Agriculture Minister Stéphane Travert, were dispersed by police officers brandishing teargas canisters.

However, video of the incident shows teargas aimed at a protestor accidentally wafting back towards the approaching peloton.

Overall race leader Geraint Thomas was among the unintended casualties of the spray, and was seen rubbing his face in discomfort after the incident. Green jersey points leader Peter Sagan was also seen accepting eye drops from race staff.

“With the headwind, the gas came back to the peloton,” rider Pierre Latour told AP“Lots of us had to stop to drink and douse water over our eyes.”

Four-time champ Chris Froome said he “just felt throat and nose were burning, eyes were burning afterwards.

“But I think quite a lot of riders were in a similar situation.”

The incident resulted in a fifteen minute pause, but riders soon continued the remaining 192km of the stage.

Julian Alaphilippe won the stage, while Thomas held onto the yellow jersey.

Source: CNN
Image: Tim De Waele / Getty Images