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The Colombian star angrily left the Vuelta’s final road stage in a huff, and refused to complete the closing kilometers of the 20th stage after losing contact with the top GC group and seeing his podium spot evaporate.
Overnight, new details from López’s coach suggest that López was angered when Movistar sport directors ordered him to stop pulling from the chase group.
Also read: López will regret walking away from Vuelta
Reports in the Colombian daily “El Tiempo” quoted sources saying that the team did not want López to keep pulling his group for fear the arrival of other GC rivals going into the final climb could jeopardize the second-place position of Movistar’s Enric Mas.
“They ordered him not to chase,” Rafael Acevedo, an ex-pro and López’s father-in-law, told the paper. “They didn’t want him to keep pulling, and he didn’t like that.”
López started Saturday’s explosive stage third overall, but was gapped under pressure from Bahrain Victorious and Ineos Grenadiers. Mas was able to follow the acceleration, but López was caught out behind. Movistar only had three other riders to try to help.
Podium rival Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious), who started fourth at 1:43 behind López, had teammates in the GC move and another waiting up the road from an early breakaway, and the team piled on the pressure to set a trap for Movistar.
— Ben Atkins (@benatkins_uk) September 4, 2021
When López pulled out, the gap was more than four minutes to the front GC group, meaning that he was likely to be knocked off a podium spot going into Sunday’s final time trial.
Once the gap grew, Acevedo claims that Movistar’s sport directors decided that the team’s interests would be better served by having Mas up the road with fewer direct rivals to mark, and ordered López to stop pulling at the front of his chase group.
On Sunday morning, Movistar sport directors or management had yet to speak to the media to comment on López’s hasty exit or to confirm if these comments coming from Colombia are true.
“[López] already spoke to his wife, and that’s what he said,” Acevedo told the newspaper. “The sport directors told him off because he was trying to reach the group ahead.”
Also read: López abruptly abandons the Vuelta a España
Even when López was pulling, the gap was still growing to Haig because few in his group had the legs or interest to work. Had López finished the stage, he likely would have dropped from third to sixth overall.
Though the images were not captured on live TV, a Spanish television reporter described how López stepped off the bike and began to argue with Movistar officials.
Movistar sport director Patxi Vila and Movistar rider Imanol Erviti both tried to encourage him to finish the stage. López was seen speaking on the phone and stepping into a Movistar car, and was marked as “DNF” on the official results sheet.
A winner at Gamoniteiru on Thursday, López later issued a formal apology, saying he gave up because it was a lost battle, and decided to stop the race in the heat of the moment.
“López finished in a bad way because he wasn’t in agreement with the decision of the sport directors,” Acevedo said.
López — who recently signed a contract extension with Spanish team Movistar — and his angry exit split media across Colombia and Spain, where some Spanish media criticized López for being selfish and unprofessional.