By Julien Pretot
GAP, France (Reuters) – Britain’s Luke Rowe and Germany’s Tony Martin have been disqualified from the Tour de France following an altercation during the 17th stage, organisers said on Wednesday.
Rowe, defending champion Geraint Thomas’s Ineos team mate, and Lotto Jumbo-Visma’s Martin were seen tangling near the top of the last climb of the day as they appeared to fight for position, which led to their disqualification by the race stewards.
Martin appeared to shoulder barge Rowe, who responded by putting his hand on the German’s neck.
Martin is a team mate of Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk, who is third overall and 12 seconds adrift of second-placed Thomas.
Race stewards report to the International Cycling Union (UCI) and communicate their daily decisions to the Tour organisers.
Lotto Jumbo-Visma said they would dispute the decision, while Ineos said they were “currently looking into an appeal”.
“To come here with this team, a bunch of good mates, I feel like I’ve let them down and of course let myself down,” said Rowe.
“We were both trying to do a job. Maybe we both overstepped the mark slightly, but it feels harsh to be thrown off the race, both of us.”
Team Ineos manager Dave Brailsford said: “It’s nothing more than you see most days of the race. It’s a pretty harsh decision.
“I think a yellow card would have been merited but a red card, for both riders in fact, feels a bit severe to me.”
Last year, Ineos — then Team Sky — rider Gianni Moscon was expelled from the Tour for taking a swing at French rider Elie Gesbert.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis and Pritha Sarkar)