Team Ineos road captain Luke Rowe and Jumbo-Visma's Tony Martin have been expelled from the Tour de France after an incident that took place during stage 17 to Gap. Both riders were found guilty of assault according to Article 2.12.007/8.2.1 of the UCI code.
The pair clashed on the final category 4 climb of the stage. First Martin appeared to try and take Rowe off the road by serving to the right. Video footage then shows Rowe raise his hand to Martin's face a few minutes later. The pair are then caught shoulder to shoulder at the front of the peloton as they clashed for a third time.
Martin found out that he needed to visit the UCI video review track just after his post-stage shower. He and Rowe had ridden the final 10km of the stage together.
Cyclingnews have been told that Team Ineos and Jumbo Visma are currently considering a joint appeal. At the finish in Gap Rowe went to give an anti-doping test and then went to the UCI's video review truck where he watched footage of the incident involving Martin with Dave Brailsford and Nicolas Portal. Cyclingnews have been informed via a source that a successful appeal is impossible. The most both teams could hope for is a reduction in their fines.
The UCI later released a press release that confirmed the riders' punishment. Both had been expelled from the race, handed 1,000 CHF fines and docked 50 UCI points. Article 8.2.1 of the UCI code covers assault, intimidation, insults, threats, improper conduct [including pulling the jersey or saddle of another rider, blow with the helmet, knee, elbow, shoulder, foot or hand etc], behaviour that is indecent or that endangers others.
Last year, Team Ineos, then Team Sky, saw Gianni Moscon expelled from race after he attempted to strike a rival. The commissaires excluded Moscon, citing article 12.1040.30.1 of the UCI regulations, which covers "acts of violence among riders” and allows for disqualification in the event of “particular serious aggression."
While Team Ineos initially tried to play down the incident involving Rowe and Martin, the race jury believed the clash was serious enough to warrant ejecting both riders from the race.
Martin's team were on the front of the peloton when Ineos looked to move their riders up. Rowe tried to pass on the right but Martin appeared to veer over and ended up – whether intentionally or not – blocking the path and making contact with Rowe, who had to correct himself so as not to crash.
Race leader Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) could be seen talking to Tony Martin shortly after the incident, and the yellow jersey later told reporters he was not impressed.
"There was a lot of tension in the peloton at that stage – everyone wanted to be well positioned – and I saw something I don't like to see," Alaphilippe said.
"There were riders who were too nervous, touching each other. Maybe they were scared I was going to attack, so I just tried to calm them down. I told them not to take any risks, because the riders in the break were no threat and I wasn't going to attack. I just called for calm."
Team Ineos, however, looked to play down any sense of controversy, Rowe and Geraint Thomas making light of the situation.
"It was nothing really. I rolled over the line with him, it's all good, we shook hands," Rowe said after the stage.
"We're both doing the same role. We just got in each other's way. That's bike racing. It's all good."
For his part, Ineos leader Thomas said: "It's the same all the time. These guys all do the same job. They have to get their leaders into a good position. They always end up jostling for position. It's nothing crazy really."
Martin did not speak after the stage, but Jumbo-Visma's leader Steven Kruijswijk saw it as the two riders 'playing around'.
"I think Ineos didn't like it that we were riding on the front," Kruijswijik told Dutch television NOS. "The two of them didn't want to concede any ground to each other, and then it's two guys who don't want to give the other space. That happens – perhaps it was the heat, or a bit of irritation."
Speaking as a pundit on Eurosport, 2012 Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins suggested Martin, his former teammate at Columbia in 2008, was in the wrong and could face punishment.
"Tony is prone to having a bit of a brain fart," Wiggins said. "He's a lovely bloke, I spent a few years in a team with him and he does get very angry.
"It wasn't called for and I don't quite know what Tony is doing there. Everyone is entitled to do as they wish but nobody deserves that in the peloton, especially not from another rider. They will sort it out as gentleman, but at the end of the day, millions of people are watching this and that's not what we want to see."