CARCASSONNE, France, (Reuters) - Team Sky’s rough ride on the Tour de France continued when their Italian rider Gianni Moscon was thrown out of the race for hitting another rider during the 15th stage on Sunday.
“The jury kicked him (Moscon) out because he hit a rider from the (French) Fortuneo-Samsic team,” a senior official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Sky have been largely unpopular in France since Briton Bradley Wiggins won the Tour in 2012 to start a period of domination during which they have won the race in five of the last six years.
Moscon, a one-day race specialist who is on the Tour as a domestique, was also accused of sending another rider crashing last year before being cleared of wrongdoing by the International Cycling Union (UCI).
“We support and accept the decision by the race organisers to exclude Gianni Moscon from the Tour de France,” Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford said in a statement.
“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.”
Moscon was suspended by Sky for six weeks for a racist slur against a French rider last year.
Sky’s dominance of the Tour has been reminiscent of disgraced American Lance Armstrong’s U.S. Postal team in the early 2000s and the French crowd has booed and jeered their riders this year.
Defending champion Chris Froome was cleared of a doping offence days before the race started but banners linking Sky to doping have been seen on the roadside and a fan slapped the Briton on the shoulder on his way up to l’Alpe d’Huez.
Race leader Geraint Thomas was booed on the podium ceremony after winning that stage this week.
Thomas leads fellow Briton Froome, who has won the Tour four times, by one minute 39 seconds heading into the second rest day on Monday before a key block of racing in the Pyrenees.
Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Ed Osmond