07/22/2010 12:53 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tour De France: Sheep Interrupt Mountain Race

(AP) COL DU TOURMALET, France — COL DU TOURMALET, France - The riders of the Tour de France have been disrupted by sheep running across their path on a hard climb up the Pyrenees mountains.

Television footage showed the sheep hesitating and then setting off together across the road as the peloton was ascending the hard climb of the Col du Soudor in heavy fog and rain.

No rider fell, but several were forced to brake hard and halt.

The sheep did not disrupt the leading group of seven riders or the 2008 champion Carlos Sastre, riding between the leading group and the peloton.

The 17th stage Thursday of 108 miles from Pau to the Col du Tourmalet is the Tour's most prestigious. Alberto Contador leads the race by eight seconds ahead of Andy Schleck.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

PAU, France (AP) -- The 172 remaining riders have set out on the Tour de France's biggest stage, a make-or-break day for Luxembourg's Andy Schleck if he wants to overcome defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain.

The riders have left Pau on the 108.1-mile 17th stage that ends with one of the most wrenching ascents in pro cycling -- the climb of the Col du Tourmalet.

Schleck hopes to make up an eight-second deficit to Contador and then open a lead big enough to get him through Saturday's time-trial -- a discipline which is Contador's specialty.

The Tour finishes in Paris on Sunday.