By Julien Pretot
GAP, France (Reuters) – European champion Matteo Trentin won the 17th stage of the Tour de France, a hilly 200-km ride from the Pont du Gard as tempers flared in the peloton on Wednesday.
Team Ineos’s Luke Rowe and Lotto Jumbo-Visma’s Tony Martin were both kicked out of the race following an altercation, just under 14 kilometres from the finish.
Italian Trentin jumped away from a reduced group of breakaway riders at the foot of the last climb and powered clear in the descent to claim his third stage victory on the Tour after previous wins in 2013 and 2014 .
It was another good day for the Mitchelton-Scott team following on from Simon Yates’ two stage wins and Daryl Impey’s victory on stage nine, which goes some way to make up for Adam Yates’s failure to contest for the overall victory.
The Briton stunningly dropped out of contention in the first high mountain stage, but the Australian outfit have since then bounced back with individual wins.
“This win is worth two wins because after stage 10 to Albi, I thought my chances to win a stage were today,” said Trentin.
“I had stage 12 to Bagneres-de-Bigorre in mind and it went well because my team mate Simon Yates won it from our breakaway group.
“Today was definitely my last possibility before three days that are extremely demanding. My mentality helped me win even more than my legs. I would have never imagined to win solo.”
Thursday’s 18th stage is a 208-km mountain trek between Embrun and Valloire featuring three climbs above 2,000 metres.
On another searing hot day in southern France, the top contenders stayed quiet, finishing in the peloton, just over 20 minutes off the pace behind Trentin, as France’s Julian Alaphilippe retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
He leads defending champion Geraint Thomas by 1:35 in the general classification.
Trentin made his move with 14 kilometres left and never looked back to beat Denmark’s Kasper Asgreen by 37 seconds and Belgian Greg van Avermaet by 41.
The main bunch rode the end of the stage at a leisurely pace but there was some tension between the top teams as German Martin, one of Steven Kruijswijk’s domestiques, appeared to push his way past Thomas’s team mate Rowe.
The Briton put a hand on Martin’s neck and the race stewards decided to disqualify both riders.
The incident prompted Alaphilippe to ask the riders to calm down.
“At some stage today, there was tension in the peloton and I tried to calm the situation. I told the other riders to not take any risks because I was not going to attack,” Alaphilippe told reporters.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Toby Davis)