Team Ineos hope Luke Rowe’s disqualification from the Tour de France won’t be a distraction in the pivotal final weekend.
Welshman Rowe was kicked off the race as the Tour moves into the decisive Alps phase, where Geraint Thomas hopes to be able to move into the yellow jersey.
But the controversy around Rowe and Jumbo-Visma’s Tony Martin threatened to break the focus of Thomas and his team.
Martin and Rowe were involved in an altercation in the final 15km of stage 17 to Gap and, despite their teams launching an appeal they were not allowed to start the daunting mountain stage the following day.
Team Ineos principal Sir Dave Brailsford said before stage 18: “The key thing is not to allow this to be a distraction, focus on what we have to do.
“We still have to race with seven guys, make sure everyone is 100 per cent engaged with that.”
TV footage from the final of stage 17 show Rowe shoving Jumbo’s general classification leader Steven Kruijswijk, prompting Martin to swerve Rowe and almost knock him off his bike.
The Team Ineos road captain then responded by pushing Martin’s face with his hand or fist.
Brailsford said he maintains his view that neither Rowe nor Martin should have been disqualified, with much of the peloton in agreement.
Team Ineos and Jumbo had hoped to appeal the decision and get their riders reinstated, as both Rowe and Martin are powerful riders who controlled the peloton on the flat, their roles even more pivotal on a day with multiple high-mountains like stage 18.
But the race rolled out of Embrun early on Thursday morning (July 25) without either rider in the peloton, as it became clear the appeal had failed.
Geraint Thomas, who is currently sat in second overall, said: “It’s not ideal, but you’ve just got to deal with it now, move on, and take the day as it comes.
“Obviously we’ll miss him, but we’ve lost riders in past Tours as well.
“Luke’s key role is in the start for days like today. Everyone has to be a bit more attentive and on who’s in the breaks and so on.”