Geraint Thomas extends Tour de France lead

Tour de France

Yellow jersey holder Geraint Thomas and world champion Peter Sagan were among the riders rinsing their eyes as the stage was stopped for 15 minutes.

"It was a tough day, an intense day, but I've got no regrets", Froome said.

"'G' (Geraint) has ridden such an awesome race and he deserves to be in yellow - and, fingers crossed, he holds it now until Paris".

Colombian climber Nairo Quintana won the short but extremely hard mountainous stage with a solo attack up the brutal finishing climb to Col du Portet.

"I think he's got nearly a two-minute lead on Dumoulin, which I think is a pretty comfortable lot", Froome told reporters after finishing 1:35 behind stage 17 victor Quintana and 48 seconds behind Thomas.

Thomas completed the podium 47 seconds adrift of Quintana, but crucially extended his lead over teammate Chris Froome in the general classification standings from 1:39 to 2:31.

This year's Tour de France has been marked by a series of incidents on the sidelines of the race including abuse directed at Froome.

Video and photos posted to social the media show the pair exchanging heated words before Froome continued on his way to the Team Sky bus.

"This isn't how I wanted to finish my Tour and leaving it like this really hurts", Gilbert said.

Welshman Thomas will start Thursday's 18th stage, a mainly flat 171 km ride from Trie-sur-Blaise to Pau with a 1:59 lead on Sunweb team leader Dumoulin, with Froome in third.

"As soon as you get carried away, it's when it goes downhill", the two-time Olympic track champion said. "Because if Froomey was suffering, everyone was suffering".

"Obviously I didn't want him to have a bad day, like he did".

Tour de France
Stephane Mahe Reuters

This is happening just as we are trying to call the fans to be calm, to make sure that the riders - their riders - and especially Chris Froome, are respected.

I don't quickly see that happening, Froome winning the Tour, but like you see in the Giro, anything is possible in the last days, but I'm focusing on myself and not on Froome.

Local authorities said in a statement that an investigation into the incidents had been opened.

Based on his determination, we believe him.

Asked who was the Team Sky leader, he replied: "I'm in a good position now".

Nonetheless, last week Froome and other Team Sky riders were targeted by a flare, while the four-time champion was reportedly spat at and pushed by road-side spectators.

"It was just about defending that lead", Thomas said.

"On a 200-kilometer stage, riders probably won't attack on the first climb".

It was Quintana's second career stage victory in the Tour, having also won a leg in 2013. But the outcome at the summit of the Col du Portet may also herald a changing of the guard for Sky.

Another casualty on the day was world champion Peter Sagan, who crashed on the risky descent off the Col de Val Louron-Azet.

Riders who have finished the race often descend down the final climb of a stage, even when the race is still on.

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