Another Tour de France rest day, another Team Sky storm. Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome took their seats in the cramped driveway of a Hotel Campanile in Carcassonne to find that the newsworthiness of their unspoken duel for overall victory had been overtaken by events.
Gianni Moscon's expulsion from the Tour on Sunday for striking Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo-Samsic) was the latest addition to the Italian's lengthy rap sheet of distasteful behaviour and yet another public relations misstep for a team that has already been jeered and booed on this Tour by fans sceptical about the credibility of their performances in the wake of Froome's salbutamol case.
"Obviously, I was disappointed, but there's nothing we can do. What's done is done," Thomas said when asked about Moscon's disqualification. "We'll try and focus on this last week. We've still got a strong team. We're a rider down, but I think all the boys will rally together now and bring us together."
Despite the disarming collective strength of Team Sky to this point, it would be remiss to suggest that the final contest for the maillot jaune will simply be a local row. Tom Dumoulin, second at the Giro, lurks with intent, while Primoz Roglic (4th at 2:38) has quietly emerged as an outside threat.
Froome acknowledged that the Sky duo would need to build a bigger advantage ahead of Saturday's time trial to Espelette.
And yet, the prospect of an internecine battle between Thomas and Froome - who is competing at the Tour after anti-doping charges against him were dropped just days before the start - continues to feel like the dominant narrative thread of the race. History has a habit of repeating itself on the Tour but unlike in the case of Hinault and Greg LeMond, for instance, there has been no public enmity between Froome and Thomas.
"We're good mates. We've ridden in the same team for a number of years now, it must be 10 or maybe even 11. We've generally lived in the same area as well and trained together. And we just get on," Thomas said, and joked: "For now, anyway."
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