Tour de France riders sprayed with tear gas after protest (video)

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BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France (AP) — Tear gas in riders’ eyes. A farmers’ protest blocking the road. Two key crashes on dangerous descents.

The only thing lacking from the wild 16th stage of the Tour de France on Tuesday was a shakeup in the overall standings.

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe took advantage of his downhill skills to win the first of three mountainous legs in the Pyrenees, 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. Geraint Thomas in the yellow jersey, second-placed Chris Froome and third-placed Tom Dumoulin all crossed together nearly nine minutes behind.

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.

“I just felt my throat and nose were burning, eyes were burning afterward,” Froome said. “But I think quite a lot of riders were in a similar situation.

“Thankfully the effect didn’t last long,” Froome added. “It was just a temporary thing with stinging and burning.”

It was the latest in a series of incidents involving spectators during this year’s race, with Team Sky riders being pushed and spat on and 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali having his back broken in a crash when a fan caught their camera strap on his handlebars.

“We feel safe. Obviously on some of the climbs not everyone’s our fans but we don’t feel threatened,” Thomas said. “It’s hard in cycling when you’re just on the open road. It’s not like football or something. Everyone’s doing the best they can and hopefully everyone can just behave and let us race.”

The small group of farmers from the Aude department were protesting a planned reduction of European Union funding, according to French authorities.

“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.”

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

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

“I thought I was broken everywhere,” said Gilbert, a teammate of Alaphilippe’s on the Quick-Step team. “But I ended up more or less OK.”

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

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.

“You never know what’s coming up on some of these corners,” Yates said. “There was a bit of downforce or something and I came down, that’s all there is to it.

“Morale’s pretty damaged right now. When you come so close to winning a stage of the Tour, it’s pretty devastating,” added Yates, who won the young rider classification in the Tour two years ago.

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.

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.

“It’s going to be massively decisive,” Thomas said. “That last climb is possibly the toughest climb in the Tour — 16 kilometers, 2,200 meters (altitude). There’s definitely going to be some splits.”

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Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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