Thomas Keeps Lead Before Decisive Week

Magnus Cort Nielsen celebrates after winning yesterday’s stage of the Tour de France

Italy's Gianni Moscon is out of the Tour after he was found to have hit a fellow rider.

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

Sitting 4th overall in the 2015 Tour, where he helped Froome to his second yellow jersey, Thomas struggled on stage 19's climb to La Toussuire, losing 22 minutes and dropping to 15th overall.

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

Brailsford will be furious.

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.

Though talented, Moscon is reaching a point where he may be more trouble than he is worth.

The Italian was suspended by Sky for six weeks after he admitted to racially abusing Kevin Reza at last year's Tour de Romandie. He was accused of using racial slurs against Kévin Reza previous year and was sent him on a diversity awareness course at the time. And when we slowed down in the chasing group, I knew he could finish it.

Former French cyclist Jerome Chiotti, who in 2000 admitted doping with the Festina team, compared Sky's dominant performances to those of disgraced American Lance Armstrong and his US Postal team.

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And two kilometres further on, Nielsen was quick to join Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek) and Jon Izagirre (Bahrain) when they left five of their breakaway companions behind.

Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) tried to attack over the top of the day's big climb, the Pic de Nore, 40km from Carcassonne.

The stage will favour climbers but conclude with a tricky descent.

"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", he said. "I imagine for our rivals it's making their lives quite hard, having two guys to watch like that". "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".

"The way I see it is I would rather be in this jersey and having the race of my life and getting booed or whatever than maybe being 30th and dropped at the first climb of the day and everyone cheering me", Thomas added.

In the leading group, it was unsurprisingly the teams doubling up who attacked first, with Mollema instigating what proved to be the winning move.

In the past fortnight four-time victor Chris Froome has been cuffed by one fan, spat at by another, and had an unidentified substance thrown at him, while Geraint Thomas has been persistently booed when presented with his yellow jersey.

Losing a key helper, an all-rounder who rode brilliantly in support of Froome at last year's Vuelta, to a controversial incident with one week to go is not ideal preparation.

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