Geraint Thomas has been hit by another blow in his bid to win a second Tour de France after the loss of his teammate, road captain and fellow Welshman Luke Rowe.
Thomas remains in second place in the overall classification, but must race the final three days without his wingman after Rowe was sensationally thrown out of the race.
The Team Ineos rider was disqualified by race officials for his part in a spat with Jumbo-Visma’s Tony Martin, who was also expelled.
In the official results given out by the race’s organisers the pair were listed on the ‘Hors Cours’ (out of the race) section after stage 17 on Wednesday.
The duo were involved in an altercation as the two teams jostled for position 15km from the end of the 200km run to Gap with Rowe appearing to react with his arm towards Martin, who had seemed intent on barging the Cardiff rider off the road.
Overall race leader Julian Alaphilippe said the pair were nervous because they felt the yellow jersey wearer would attack on the climb.
Both Ineos, with reigning champion Thomas in second place, and Jumbo with Steven Kruijswijk in third, were keen to be on hand in that eventuality.
Tour winners generally complete the three weeks with a full team, with depleted outfits rarely gaining the big prizes at the Cham
“To come here with my mates on this team, I just feel like I’ve let them down,” Rowe said.
“But it feels harsh, it is pretty hard. We were both very nervous,” he added.
“They have decided to expel Tony and Luke from the race wich feels incredibly harsh,” said Ineos principal Dave Brailsford.
“A yellow card would have been merited but a red card feels a bit silly to me,” he added.
Rowe said: “We’re both doing the same role, both doing the same job, it was nothing really.
“I rolled over the line with him, it’s all good, we shook hands. We just got in each other’s way.
“It does get a bit tense at times but at the end of the day you’ve got to have broad shoulders and it’s no problem.
“We rode the last 10km of the stage talking to each other.”
Italian Matteo Trentin won stage 17 as Alaphilippe and Thomas rolled over the line together 20min 10sec later.