Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe played down an altercation between Team Ineos and Jumbo-Visma as Matteo Trentin won stage 17 of the Tour de France in Gap.
Mitchelton-Scott’s Trentin soloed to victory from the breakaway but further back on the road Tony Martin – a key domestique for third-placed Steven Kruijswijk – appeared to ride Thomas’ team-mate Rowe almost off the road.
Rowe said it was nothing more than a battle for position and said he had shaken hands with the German before the stage finished.
“We’re both doing the same role, both doing the same job, it was nothing really,” Rowe said. “I rolled over the line with him, it’s all good, we shook hands. We just got in each other’s way. That’s bike racing. All good.
“I don’t know how many Tour de Frances you’ve ridden but 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 10 kilometres of the stage talking to each other. It’s all good.”
Thomas, who remains second overall, 95 seconds behind Julian Alaphilippe in the yellow jersey, said such tussles are common.
“Luke, Tony Martin, (Imanol) Erviti at Movistar, they all do the same job, they’ve got to get their leaders into a good position,” he said.
“They are always jostling for position and that’s always happening. It’s nothing crazy, really.”
European champion Trentin was part of a 33-man group – also including Ireland’s Nicolas Roche of Team Sunbweb – which went up the road early in the 200km stage from Pont du Gard.
With the peloton clearly not interested in contesting stage honours, keeping their powder dry for the Alps to come, the group moved more than 15 minutes clear, and Trentin made his move off the front on the final climb as they began to splinter.
Trentin crested the Col de la Sentinelle with a 25-second advantage over Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Kasper Asgreen and was able to extend that lead on the long descent into town to win by 36 seconds, more than 20 minutes ahead of the main pack.
It was a third career Tour stage win for the Italian and continued the most successful Tour in Mitchelton-Scott’s history.
Daryl Impey won stage nine into Brioude before Simon Yates delivered on stages 12 and 15, meaning the team have more stage wins in the 2019 Tour than they did in all of their previous appearances since their debut as Orica-GreenEdge in 2013 combined.
There were no changes at the top of the general classification, with Alaphilippe keeping the yellow jersey for yet another day, though he is widely expected to fall away in the Alps.
Should that play out, it will leave a fascinating battle is anticipated with only 39 seconds separating Thomas in second from Bora-Hangrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann in sixth place.
Thibaut Pinot, who was the strongest climber in the Pyrenees last weekend, sits fourth, 15 seconds behind Thomas.