A brutal run of three straight Alpine climbing stages starts tomorrow at the Tour de France, but two of the best teams in the peloton will be without their strongest support riders after they got testy on today’s flat stage.
Toward the end of the run-in to the city of Gap, Jumbo-Visma’s Tony Martin and Team Ineos’s Luke Rowe had a disagreement over who was allowed the use of the road, and it quickly turned physical. Martin appeared to try and shove Rowe off the road; Rowe responded by lightly swatting Martin in the face.
After the race, both men shook hands, said they were fine with each other, and issued a joint statement on how it was just the heat of the moment.
Tour de France organizers did not sympathize, as both riders were kicked out for “acts of violence.” The teams are reportedly thinking of filing a joint appeal, though Cycling News reports that Tour organizers would not consider it.
With two hors categorie climbs on tap tomorrow, Rowe and Martin’s absences will be a significant blow to riders Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, and Steven Kruijswijk. The two Ineos teammates and the Jumbo-Visma leader will find themselves without their best flat-road workhorses, and that’ll give French rivals Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe more cover to attack. Is this a grand conspiracy to ensure a French cyclist atop the Tour de France podium for the first time in 34 years? No, but an easily resolved feud would be funnier that way.