Ineos team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said the decision to disqualify Luke Rowe and Tony Martin from the Tour de France is “severe”.
UCI commissaires expelled the Ineos and Jumbo-Visma road captains after they clashed late in stage 17 to Gap.
Footage shows Martin almost riding Rowe off the road and the Welshman appearing to retaliate by grabbing the German.
“It feels incredibly harsh,” said Brailsford. “It’s nothing more than you see most days of the race.”
- Matteo Trentin wins stage 17 as Julian Alaphilippe stays in yellow jersey
“There’s no doubt about it, Tony cut up Luke a little bit and he’s fought for his position a little bit,” he added.
“I think a yellow card would have been merited but a red card, for both riders, in fact, feels a bit severe to me.”
Rowe’s team-mate and compatriot Geraint Thomas is second in general classification, with the defending champion 95 seconds behind Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe.
Martin’s Jumbo-Visma team-mate Steven Kruijswijk is third overall, 12 seconds further back, heading into the three mountain stages which will decide the outcome of this year’s race.
“We were both trying to do a job, maybe we overstepped the mark slightly, but it feels harsh to be thrown off the race,” said Rowe, 29. “I think neither of us deserve that.
“I’m here alongside a bunch of good mates and I feel like I’ve let them down – and myself.”