Team Sky suffered a setback in their attempt to secure a fourth consecutive Tour de France and Grand Tour victory with their Italian rider Gianni Moscon disqualified after landing a punch on Team Fortuneo-Samsic rider Elie Gesbert at the beginning of Stage 15. Despite releasing a grovelling apology following the stage in which he apologised to Gesbert and his own team for his actions, Moscon’s future at Team Sky looks to be in doubt following previous disciplinary issues and this incident at the most prestigious event on the cycling calendar.
Cameras were just about able to catch the altercation between Moscon and Gesbert, with the Fortuneo-Samsic rider seemingly angering Moscon
The incident occurred at the very start of the stage, with only 800 metres having been ridden as riders began to jostle to get into the right position in the peloton. The cameras were just about able to catch the altercation between Moscon and Gesbert, with the Fortuneo-Samsic rider seemingly angering Moscon by making contact with him, leading to Moscon swinging an arm back towards the Frenchman and clearly catching him in the face.
Despite no major reaction from Gesbert at the time, race organisers announced that Moscon would take no further part in the race following a review of the video footage after the stage was completed. The decision was supported and accepted by Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford, who also apologised to Team Fortuneo-Samsic and Gesbert, describing the incident as “unacceptable”. The decision was also in line with previous Tour incidents involving riders making aggressive contact with rivals, most notably in 2017 when World Road Race champion Peter Sagan was controversially disqualified and denied the chance to win a sixth consecutive green jersey (best sprinter) for causing a crash with Mark Cavendish, which resulted in Cavendish withdrawing from the race with a broken shoulder.
The position of Team Sky at the top of road cycling has been built around the importance of the collective effort of all their riders
Moscon’s actions mean that his Team Sky career could be over, having turned professional in 2016. Brailsford said that the issue will be addressed with Moscon once the Tour is over, and a decision taken over whether there will be any further action. However, the prospect of Moscon avoiding the sack from Sky looks slim, following previous misdemeanours which have left him on his final warning from Sky. He was suspended by Sky for six weeks and had to attend a diversity awareness course following the 2017 Tour de Romandie after racially abusing Kevin Reza from the Française des Jeux team. The subsequent statement from Sky seemed to suggest that any more serious disciplinary issues would result in Moscon being sacked, with the statement saying that “Gianni knows that there is no excuse for his behaviour and that any repeat will result in termination of his contract”.
The loss of a rider has tarnished what has been a near perfect Tour de France for the British team so far. Geraint Thomas holds the yellow jersey and has a moderate lead over his Sky teammate Chris Froome, who is seeking to win his fourth consecutive Tour de France and further strengthen his dominance of road cycling as the current holder of all three Grand Tour titles, the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta a España. The position of Team Sky at the top of road cycling has been built around the importance of the collective effort of all their riders, with the domestiques setting the pace at the front of the peloton and controlling the race for the benefit of the team leader. Despite leading the race, Thomas has insisted that his primary role is to support Froome, and therefore the departure of Moscon is a blow to Froome, with Moscon a key ally during his victory in the 2017 Vuelta a España.
Team Sky will also be left to rue the loss of a rider just before the race heads to the harsh slopes of the Pyrenees, where the whole team will be needed to ensure Thomas and Froome retain their strong positions before the Stage 20 time trial. Thomas and Froome will be hoping to have a decent lead over their main rival in the general classification, Tom Dumoulin, before Stage 20 as Dumoulin is a time trial specialist and the current holder of the World Time Trial Championship.