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Tour de France: Rowe and Tony Martin head home after failed pleas to CAS

The Tour de France became the Tour de Farce on Thursday morning, as Tony Martin and Luke Rowe, who were both expelled from the race the previous day, turned up to Embrun prepared to start stage 18.

In the end, they didn’t, and both were ushered into team cars instead of on their bikes, as the rest of the riders made their way to the start line and proceeded towards the Alps.

Throughout the morning, the Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma team management were frantically trying to get the decision overturned. With no avenue for appeal at the UCI, whose officials made the decision, lawyers were putting in calls to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The two teams joined forces, pooling their resources as they had done the previous evening, when they’d sat both Rowe and Martin down together for a joint video statement.

Both riders travelled with their teams from their hotels in Gap to the start in Embrun, half an hour down the road, and both had their kit in their bags, just in case. Neither rider’s bike was lined up outside the bus, but they both had a bike on the roof of their respective team cars.

Asked if Rowe was kitted up on the Ineos bus, team manager Dave Brailsford said: “Maybe.”

A sense of confusion permeated as representatives from both teams confirmed they were in contact with the CAS, the highest judicial body in sport. Two years ago, Bora-Hansgrohe went to the CAS after Peter Sagan was expelled from the Tour, with the team and the UCI eventually compromising and accepting that the crash was simply "an unfortunate and unintentional race incident."

That process, however, took several months, and it’s hard to believe either Ineos or Jumbo-Visma had any real conviction that they might get anywhere in the space of a couple of hours. They spoke of a deadline of 11am, but that was only because that was when sign-on for stage 18 closed.

The teams contacted the CAS because there is no official avenue for appeal at the UCI, whose regulations state that decisions “are not subject to appeal except in the cases of fines exceeding 1000 CHF. Rowe’s and Martin’s fines were 1000 CHF exactly and, in any case, it’s only the fine that can be appealed, not the expulsion itself.

“I had time to take it in, but of course I also had hope in the small chance the appeal would be successful,” Martin told reporters after coming off the Jumbo bus and getting into a team car. “To be taken out of the race so close to Paris is not nice.”

Rowe, meanwhile, had his bike packed into a team van and was taken to the airport to fly home.

“This morning I knew there was a 99.9 per cent chance I wouldn’t be starting, but obviously ourselves, along with Jumbo-Visma, appealed,” Rowe told ITV on the way to the airport. “There’s always a small chance but realistically it was a very slim chance.”

Bennett: There’s a lot more to the story than we saw on TV

Outside the Jumbo-Visma bus, team leader Steven Kruijswijk was reluctant to discuss the matter ahead of a crucial day for his overall ambitions. George Bennett, however, did offer his take when asked by Cyclingnews.

Bennett was up at the front of the bunch alongside Tony Martin when the incidents occurred, with Martin appearing to veer to the right to block Rowe’s path, and Rowe responding by raising his arm to the German’s face.

Bennett insisted the punishment was unfair, but also suggested a lot of it wasn’t picked up by television cameras.

“No, not [fair] for that. That stuff happens all the time. If they saw everything that happened in a race, and acted on every skirmish, none of us would make it to Paris,” Bennett argued.

“The problem is that they only saw the last 30 seconds, when Tony swerved over the road. The skirmish started a long time before then. I don’t think they should judge Tony on whether he over-reacted.

“It wasn’t great, it wasn’t a smart thing to do, but there’s a lot more to the story than what we saw on TV.”

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Patrick Fletcher
Patrick Fletcher

Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.