Gianni Moscon (L) has been disqualified.
Gianni Moscon (L) has been disqualified.

Tour star disqualified for punching rival

GIANNI Moscon's Team Sky future is in doubt after the franchise's team principal supported the decision by race organisers to expel the rider from the Tour de France.

Moscon was disqualified from the iconic race for punching Fortuneo-Samsic's Elie Gesbert just 800 metres into Sunday's 181.5km stage from Millau to Carcassonne. The race expulsion adds to the 24-year-old Italian's troubled disciplinary record after he was suspended last year for racially abusing FDJ's Kevin Reza during the Tour de Romandie.

In a statement, Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford said a decision on whether Moscon would face further action will be made after the Tour. "We support and accept the decision by the race organisers to exclude Gianni Moscon from the Tour de France," Brailsford said.

"Gianni is desperately disappointed in his behaviour and knows that he has let himself, the team and the race down.

"We will address this incident with Gianni once the Tour is complete and decide then if any further action should be taken.

"I would like to offer my sincere apologies to both Elie Gesbert and Team Fortuneo Samsic for this unacceptable incident."

A statement from race organisers said Moscon had been disqualified for "particularly serious aggression".

Moscon's exit leaves Sky with seven riders, though they it been along among the teams targeting general classification in not losing a rider already. Though talented, Moscon is reaching a point where he may be more trouble than he is worth.

In 2017 he was suspended for six weeks and sent on a diversity awareness course after racially abusing Reza during the Tour de Romandie, while in June this year he was cleared of deliberately causing a crash with Reza's teammate Sebastien Reichenbach - an incident which was alleged to be related.

Moscon was also disqualified from last year's world championship road race after hanging on to a team car.

When Moscon was disciplined by Sky for the racist abuse of Reza, the team said: "Gianni knows that there is no excuse for his behaviour and that any repeat will result in termination of his contract."

The punching incident overshadowed a day in which Geraint Thomas comfortably retained the yellow jersey as Magnus Cort Nielsen won his first career Tour stage, outsprinting Jon Izagirre of Bahrain-Merida and Bauke Mollema of Trek-Segefredo to deliver back-to-back wins for Astana.

Thomas spent his post-race press conference answering questions about the negativity Sky so often faces in France - a situation unlikely to be helped by Moscon's actions, particularly as he struck out at a Frenchman.

"For me this is the highlight of my career, it's a massive honour and privilege to be wearing the jersey and have such an incredible race so far," Thomas said. "There's a bit of negativity around and it isn't nice but at the end of the day you need to stay strong in your head and crack on."

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